The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the thick of their offensive coordinator search, but no decision has been made yet. After initially being optimistic about reaching outside of the organization to find their next OC, Mike Tomlin has given us reason to be nervous as of late.
The Steelers missed an opportunity to sign Zac Robinson. The former Rams' pass game coordinator recently inked a deal with the Falcons to become Altanta's new offensive coordinator. Now the latest Steelers OC interview doesn't have us feeling encouraged.
On Sunday, January 28th, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network confirmed that the Pittsburgh Steelers met with Arthur Smith about the vacant offensive coordinator position.
You probably know Smith as the former Atlanta Falcons head coach who went 7-10 in three straight seasons as a head coach before being relieved of his duties ahead of the 2024 offseason. This is the OC candidate the Steelers are exploring, and it seems likely that Smith could wind up as the next OC in Pittsburgh.
Arthur Smith fits what Mike Tomlin wants... but that's a bad thing
One thing Arthur Smith's offenses have always been able to do is run the football effectively. Smith turned widely unknown and unproven running back Tyler Allgeier into a 1,000-yard running back as a rookie in 2022 and one of the most efficient ball-carriers in the league. Likewise, he completely revitalized Corderrelle Patterson's career on offense and made him an excellent running back from 2021 to 2022 in Atlanta.
Before earning the head coaching job with the Falcons in 2021, Smith was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans for two years. During this time, Smith's run-first offense aided Derrick Henry to back-to-back NFL rushing titles. In 2020, Henry earned over 2,000 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns for one of the best single seasons we have ever seen from the RB position.
It's easy to see how Smith fits with the program in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin has always been a proponent of running the ball effectively, playing mistake-free football, and playing good defense. But there lies the problem.
This Steelers team is already good at running the ball; they are already good at avoiding putting the ball in harm's way; and they finished as the sixth-best scoring defense in the NFL last season -- allowing just 19.7 points per game to their opponents, per Team Rankings.
Steelers must go with an OC who will revamp the passing game
The Tennessee Titans tried to execute this game plan in a very similar situation to what Pittsburgh is considering. With Mike Vrabel as their head coach and Arthur Smith as their offensive coordinator, the Titans made the playoffs in both seasons. However, their postseason run came to a screeching halt in 2019 when they scored just 13 points in a loss against the Ravens in 2020 when they scored 16 points in their defeat against the Bengals.
Though Smith turned Ryan Tannehill into an efficient passer, the Titans still revolved around the running game. The problem is that this outdated style simply doesn't come with enough firepower when it matters most.
In Atlanta, things were far worse. The Falcons had good young skill players but a shaky situation at quarterbacks. In many ways, this is what Smith would be dealing with in Pittsburgh. In his three years as head coach, Atlanta averaged 18.4 PPG in 2021, 21.5 PPG in 2022, and 18.9 PPG in 2023 (which isn't a whole lot better than what Matt Canada did during the same time span with his respective team).
Smith's style of offense is more or less what the Steelers have already had -- running the ball effectively and taking care of the football. Unfortunately, this is not the recipe for success in today's NFL when you have to get past powerhouse offenses each year led by quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Simply put, Arthur Smith fits what Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers would like to do, but that's the problem. What they have been doing hasn't been working. This team needs to think outside the box and hire an offensive coordinator who will completely revamp their stagnant passing game. Only then will they have a shot to compete with the best teams in the AFC.