Arthur Smith is the new Offensive Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and he is the piece that the team hopes will unlock Kenny Pickett, and the rest of the Steelers' offense to their maximum potential. Smith had success in Tennessee as their Offensive Coordinator and struggled during his time in Atlanta as the Head Coach.
Only time will tell if hiring Smith was the right move, but in the meantime, there are reasons for optimism, and reasons for skepticism for Steelers fans, as a result of this signing.
Smith had Immense Success in Tennessee and Should add a Boost to the Offense
Arthur Smith had a dominant running game during his time in Tennessee, although many may wonder how much of that was his doing, and how much of that was thanks to Derrick Henry. Regardless, Henry had his best season under Smith, eclipsing 2000 yards rushing, and Smith loved to run the ball in Atlanta as well. Smith should serve as a nice addition to the playcalling in the running game, to help boost an already strong rushing attack that features the two-headed tandem of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.
As a result of the strengthened running game the offense as a whole should improve. Opposing defenses will have to respect the running game and this will open up the passing game. During his time with the Titans, Ryan Tannehill had a career resurgence and played the best football of his career.
Much of that can be attributed to Arthur Smith using the run game to create opportunities in the passing game. He uses a lot of play-action, which is something that the Steelers offense has sorely lacked the past few seasons, and pairs extremely well when an opponent is gearing up to stop the run.
The Steelers likely saw what he did with Tannehill, and are hoping he can get similar results out of Kenny Pickett. Pickett and Tannehill have similar skill sets, and the use of play action, as well as improved play calling as a whole, should help Pickett take strides from where he has been thus far. With improved play-calling the Steelers should remain playoff contenders next year.
The Steelers Played it Safe with the Hiring of Smith
However, despite all of that, I still am not in love with the hiring. I do think that Smith will improve the offense and keep the Steelers in playoff contention. However, the goal isn't to remain in Playoff contention, it is ultimately to make the Steelers Super Bowl Contenders.
I am not saying that is possible this year, but to do that the Steelers need to see some change and not just sit in the sphere of above-average play that they've been mired in since the last few years of the Roethlisberger era.
As I've said many times before, the Steelers need to find out what they have in Pickett and hope that he can become that he is the franchise quarterback who can make the jump to turn them into true Super Bowl contenders.
While I'm not as confident in that as I once hoped, they still need to give him one last chance this season with a new regime. If Pickett is not that guy, the best thing for the team would be to have one really bad season and get a high pick to get a blue-chip quarterback prospect to develop.
Unfortunately, I think Smith will keep the Steelers mired in the same realm that they've been in for the last 5-6 years. Smith will improve the offensive playcalling, and make the play look better in the regular season, so it won't be as hard to watch as it was this year. But, ultimately, I believe they will be a fringe playoff team again, and either just miss, or probably go into a first-round matchup as heavy underdogs.
What the Steelers should have done was hire some young offensive guru, who can work with Pickett and hopefully unlock everything he has in him. This guy would be someone like Klint Kubiak, Bobby Slowik, or Mike McDaniel before he rose the ranks to head coach.
Though it would have been a lot riskier to higher a young offensive mind with far less experience, that would have been doubly beneficial. Either it would work out flawlessly and Pickett would become the QB you hope he is, or it would fail miserably, and you'd end up sitting in a much better spot to draft a top-end prospect.
Ultimately, I understand that the Steelers are trying to win and compete for the Postseason. However, I don't view merely making the Playoffs and continuing Mike Tomlin's streak of no losing seasons as the barometer of success. The Steelers are such a storied franchise, and the barometer of success should be much higher.
All in all, I don't think Arthur Smith will be a bad hire, but I think the Steelers played it too safe. When all is said in done, they will finish next year very similarly to how they finished the last few seasons, and won't be set up very well to find a way out of that for the following season.