Well, now that the dust has settled, so to speak after the Pittsburgh Steelers' unceremonious exit from the 2023 wild-card round, it's on to the business of the off-season. The first order of business and the single, most important order of business is finding a new offensive coordinator.
During Mike Tomlin's most recent press conference, he addressed the coordinator position and essentially said that he was looking to hire an outside candidate who had prior experience as a coordinator in an effort to score more points.
If you haven't had a chance to listen to the press conference, I would encourage you to do so. As we sit here today, the Steelers are interviewing candidates. That got me thinking about this: what is the most important thing, in my opinion, of course, that we must look for in a new offensive coordinator?
The Steelers should return to a system that served them well for decades
For those of you who don't know, I have been a Steelers fan for forty-six-plus years. During that time, I personally witnessed every offensive scheme that we deployed from the 1970s through the 2023 season. While each offensive scheme had merit, I would argue that there was one scheme that fit our identity.
Before we get to that, let's address the elephant in the room. What is the most important thing we need to look for in our new offensive coordinator? Based on what Tomlin said in his press conference about putting some points on the board, I would say it's exactly that-scoring more points.
So, how do we accomplish that goal? Do we go with a run-centric scheme and pound our opponents into submission? That sounds great, but if the run game isn't working, we would be forced to pass. Do we go with a pass-centric offense? That sounds great, but the aforementioned logic would apply.
Whoever the new offensive coordinator is must be able to "scheme" the receivers open, must be able to establish the run to set up the play-action pass, and must be able to close out a game on the ground in the final four minutes of the contest.
In other words, the new offensive coordinator must have the vision to get the most production out of the skill-position players we currently have. For example, Najee Harris had another one-thousand-yard season on the ground. That's great, but can that be improved to twelve hundred yards on the ground?
Jaylen Warren accounted for a little over one-thousand, one-hundred and fifty total yards of offense. That's great, but how can we improve upon that? How do get Pat Freiermuth more involved in the offense? How do we get Darnell Washington and George Pickens more involved in the offense?
I think those are fair questions to which I would respond with this: when I stated that there was one scheme that fit our identity, I was referring to the Erhardt-Perkins scheme. Although we technically have run the Erhardt-Perkins scheme on and off since the 1990s in one form or fashion, we have not deployed the "true" Erhardt-Perkins scheme since 2021.
That's what we need to get back. We need to hire an offensive coordinator who is an Erhardt-Perkins aficionado and who will get the most out of the running game, who will get the tight ends involved in the offense, and who will be able to, by default, tell us if we have our franchise quarterback.
I believe that Kenny Pickett would thrive in the "true" Erhardt-Perkins scheme. I believe Pickett's skill set is perfectly suited for that kind of scheme. I believe we would become instant AFC contenders if we deployed the Erhardt-Perkins scheme, but, alas, that is not my decision to make.