The Pittsburgh Steelers are hiring former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as their new offensive coordinator, per Tom Pelissero. Smith was heavily scrutinized during his tenure with the Falcons and will face high expectations from a fan base that quickly turned on former OC Matt Canada in 2023.
Smith began his NFL coaching career with Washington as their defensive quality control coach. He was in that role from 2007-2008 and then next popped up in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans in 2011. Smith began as their defensive quality control coach before moving to the offensive side of the ball in 2012. He was with the Titans for the next eight seasons moving all the way up to their offensive coordinator in 2019. Smith was praised for his strong run game with Derrick Henry considered one of the best running backs in the league. It was this success that made him a sought-after head coaching candidate, and he wound up as Atlanta’s head coach in 2021.
Smith’s tenure as Atlanta’s head coach didn’t go as planned, as the Falcons tallied a 7-10 record in three consecutive seasons. When he was with Tennessee in 2019, the Titans offense had the 12th most yards per game and the third-most rushing yards per game. Tennessee went 9-7 in 2019 and followed it up with 11-5 and 12-5 the next two years. Notably, the Titans did make the playoffs all three years under Smith’s tenure as OC.
Pittsburgh needs an offensive jump start. They are run-heavy, but their defense is what kept them in games. The Steelers want to establish the run and Smith could be the coach that helps that. Pittsburgh’s offense had the eighth-fewest yards per game last season and sixth-fewest points per game. With Smith coming in, expect the Steelers to continue running (pun intended) their offense through both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. The hiring of Smith could end up being a band-aid that masks the problem at quarterback, or it could be the final straw and signal the end of Kenny Pickett’s tenure as the starter heading into 2025.
The other question for the offense is whether or not Smith can open up the passing game. With how good the run game for Tennessee was, the passing game never quite found the same success. In 2019, they had the 21st-most passing yards in the league, followed by 23rd-most in 2020 and 24th in 2021. We have seen wide receiver George Pickens, in particular, be very vocal and act out when he wasn’t getting the targets he thought he deserved. If Smith doesn’t help the passing attack take a step forward, it wouldn’t be surprising for Pickens to request a trade.