Steelers should be optimistic about Arthur Smith if they fix this…

NFL: DEC 04 Steelers at Falcons

The Steelers have hired Arthur Smith as the team’s new offensive coordinator, and the announcement was met with jeers from Falcons fans. However, Pittsburgh should be optimistic about the hire.

He might not have succeeded as a head coach in Atlanta, but he sure did in Tennessee as an offensive coordinator. The Titans had the league’s third-best rushing attack (138.9 yards per game) and the 10th-best scoring offense (23.3 points per game) in 2019 then improved upon those numbers in 2020, averaging 168 rushing yards per game and the fourth-most points (30.7).

Though the trend didn’t continue in Atlanta, 24th in scoring (19.6 points per game) and 11th in rushing during Smith’s tenure with the Falcons, the new Steelers coordinator possesses what Mike Tomlin wants.

Both men epitomize Pittsburgh’s blue collar fan base and the team’s style of play, old-school football. The Steelers have a pair of runners in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren that will be featured in the new-look offense.

Smith isn’t the next great Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay like Zac Robinson may be under Raheem Morris in Atlanta, but the former Falcons head coach has experience and matches what Tomlin and the Steelers wanted their offensive scheme and personnel to be.

Arthur Smith’s tendencies and success with Derrick Henry and Tyler Allgeier fit with what Najee Harris and the Steelers do best on the offensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh is a team that can compete right now, but similar struggles that plagued Arthur Smith in Atlanta could continue if Kenny Pickett doesn’t improve.

The former second-round pick was better than Desmond Ridder; there’s no arguing that point. The team is clearly not sold on the Pittsburgh product, though. Art Rooney, the team’s owner, echoed the same sentiments as Mike Tomlin that the organization expects big things from him in 2024, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

However, Rooney added that he’d like Mason Rudolph to be retained to provide competition. Those are the words of a man who isn’t confident in Pickett, and nor should he be. The Steelers were 3-1 in the final four games of the season and averaged nearly 370 total yards per contest with Rudolph as the starter.

Many expected the 2023 campaign to be Pickett’s coming out party after ending his rookie season strong by leading the Steelers to a 7-2 record down the stretch, but that never came to fruition.

Pickett finished the season with 2,070 yards, six touchdown passes and four interceptions in 12 games. compared to seven touchdowns and nine interceptions as a rookie in 2022. Some of his struggles should be attributed to Matt Canada, who was fired following Week 11, but he also didn’t help the offense much.

The former Falcons head coach is more capable than Canada of coordinating an effective offense if he has a good quarterback. Arthur Smith took the job, so he has to know there’s a possibility that Pickett will be his starter.

If they don’t go after one of the top veterans like Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield to maximize this roster, the Steelers should absolutely bring in insurance, and not the Mason Rudolph kind. Someone like Ryan Tannehill or another high-end backup that can step in for Pickett if his struggles continue in 2024.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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