Well, it's all over but the shouting, as the saying goes. Multiple and various media outlets have reported that Arthur Smith, former Atlanta Falcons head coach, is set to become the Steelers new offensive coordinator. I can't help but think that it is a curious decision that Mike Tomlin has made.
As with most things we do, I'm sure there was input from Art Rooney, but as he recently stated in an interview with 93.7 The Fan, the hiring of the new offensive coordinator is(was) Tomlin's decision. If we take that comment at face value and there's no reason to suggest we should not, we are left to conclude that Tomlin made the call to bring in Smith as the new OC.
What type of scheme can we expect to see from the Steelers in 2024?
The reason I use the word curious is this: I'm not entirely sure what kind of offensive scheme Smith will deploy in the 2024 season. I think it's a foregone conclusion that it will be a run-first type of scheme, but if you read the various reports that are out there about Smith's scheme, it's kind of a 'mixed bag'.
The reason I say it's a mixed bag is because of the scheme Smith ran in Tennessee when he was the offensive coordinator with the Titans. Derrick Henry was the focal point of the offense, make no mistake. In 2019, Henry led the league in rushing with over one-thousand and five-hundred yards.
The next season, Henry rushed for a little over two thousand yards. The Titans finished with a nine-win season in 2019 and an eleven-win season in 2020. Smith was then off to Atlanta to become the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons where he compiled a twenty-one and thirty record over three seasons.
That's not a great record by any stretch of the imagination, but you can't dent the relative success Smith had with the Titans. I use the term 'relative' because, although the Titans made the playoffs in both 2019 and 2020, there were no Super Bowl appearances.
Considering we have not made a trip to the Super Bowl since 2010, maybe Smith will bring the return of the power-run game, which is reminiscent of the Erhardt-Perkins scheme we ran in the 1990s. Ron Erhardt's scheme from 1992 to 1995 was the perfect combination of both the run and the pass.
The problem we ran into was the inability to consistently come from behind if the run game was not working for whatever reason. That is my fear with the hiring of Smith. In 2019, the Titans finished ranked twenty-first in average passing yards per game. In 2020, the Titans finished ranked twenty-third in average passing yards per game.
During his tenure as the Falcons head coach, Smith presided over a passing game that ranked sixteenth, thirty-first, and twenty-second, respectively. Again, not great statistics. As I stated, my concern is that if we find ourselves in a position where we absolutely must throw the ball, I don't know how effective we will be under Smith.
Obviously, that is just speculation on my part. For all I know, Smith will bring both the run game and the passing game to the next level. I sure hope so because not only does the Steelers offense need to score more points, but we need to be able to close out a game on offense rather than having to rely on the defense as we have had to in recent years.
Look, I am hopeful that Tomlin made the right decision in hiring Smith. We desperately need a fresh start and a different perspective. Getting back to my point about the Titans offense centering around Henry suggests that Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren will be more featured than they have been.
That's great except neither of them is named Derrick Henry. Harris is the closest 'thing' to Henry, but I don't know if trying to make Harris into Henry is the right call. Not saying that will happen, but you have to assume it will, to a certain degree.
In any event, we don't know what will transpire in 2024 which makes this truly a guessing game. I can posit a guess, but I won't. I would rather take the 'wait and see' approach. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting, to say the least, to watch how things 'play out'.