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CBS Sports Analyst Thinks Steelers Offensive Approach Is Archaic

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Pittsburgh Steelers Arthur Smith
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith during OTAs on May 21, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

In a recent article, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports tabbed new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s offense as the biggest red flag for the club in 2024.

Last season, when he was the head coach for the Atlanta Falcons, Smith used 3+ wide receivers just 18% of the time, which was by far the lowest percentage in the NFL. Benjamin thinks some of Smith’s schemes and philosophies are outdated.

“Russell Wilson and Justin Fields give them must-see appeal at quarterback. George Pickens is talented out wide. And yet, with Arthur Smith at the helm of the offense, are they going to be conservative and run-heavy? The lack of proven top-tier running mates for Pickens may well demand it,” Benjamin wrote.

There’s no doubt about it, the Matt Canada era in Pittsburgh was a massive failure. It’s hard to imagine Arthur Smith doing worse. But will he make the Steelers an offensive juggernaut? Will the Steelers develop a competent passing game?

Smith’s specialty is the run game, and he had great success as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator from 2019-2020. The Titans finished 10th in scoring and third in rushing in his first season, leaning on a strong offensive line and the talents of running back Derrick Henry. The Titans finished fourth in scoring in 2020, all the while having a below-average passing attack.

Pittsburgh Steelers Arthur Smith

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith during minicamp on June 12, 2024 — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Smith’s tenure as the Falcons head coach was a different story. There was a lot to be desired. The Falcons finished with the No. 17 offense in total yards per game (334.3), and the No. 26 scoring offense (18.9 points per game). Overall, Smith went 21-30 in Atlanta with zero playoff appearances.

The Falcons ran the ball an NFL-high 559 times in 2022. This past season, they ran the ball 522 times, third-most. Smith was unable to develop a passing game in Atlanta, but it’s not like he had an elite quarterback, either.

Smith also received flak for not utilizing his three biggest stars on offense enough — tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson. Smith gave an odd 5+ minute explanation last season as to why Robinson has had limited touches in the red zone.

Perhaps Smith is just a better offensive coordinator than a head coach. But he still ran the offense in Atlanta. It will be interesting to see how his tenure plays out in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin is confident that he hired the right person for the job.

“First and foremost, man, I’ve competed against him over the years,” Tomlin said at the NFL owner’s meetings in March when asked what made Smith a favorable candidate. “We’ve had some battles against Tennessee and then obviously we played him when he was in Atlanta. I respect his approach, the ball, his values are very evident in looking at his tape and they are aligned with things that we value controlling the game through our bigs and building from there and then I also got close relationships with some people who were really significant in his development and helped him establish some things that he strongly believes in, guys that I’ve had an opportunity to work with like much for example, and so it was really a great deal of comfort and beyond comfort. It was a great deal of excitement in terms of bringing him on board.”