The Arthur Smith era has officially begun in Pittsburgh. He’s Mike Tomlin’s fifth offensive coordinator during his tenure. And Smith will be looking to bring a smash-mouth approach to Pittsburgh, which fits the Steelers’ roster makeup and Tomlin’s philosophy.
“There’s a certain identity we want to have,” Smith told Missi Matthews of Steelers.com. “Any offense I’ve been a part of it’s going to be physical, we want to win on the line of scrimmage, it’s also about playing to our strengths, create explosives, we want to have a very smart unit.”
Smith’s biggest task will be to develop and mold Kenny Pickett. The former Pitt quarterback is heading into a crucial Year 3, which Tomlin noted during his season-ending press conference. It will be up to Smith to get the most out of Pickett. Creating a strong rapport is the first place to start to building success.
“There’s a relationship that’s got to be built between me and Kenny. That’s so paramount between the play caller and the quarterback,” Smith said. “There’s a trust that’s gotta be built daily and it goes both ways. I’ve gotta earn Kenny’s trust and vice versa as we build this offense, and all the things we want to work on and we want him to work on, and take command of this offense.”
Smith did not develop Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder in Atlanta, but he did have success with Ryan Tannehill when he was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Tannehill had an over 100 passer rating in both 2019 and 2020 under Smith.
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. That provided the blueprint for the franchise, as they finished fourth in scoring in 2020, all the while having a below-average passing attack.
Smith faced criticism for his usage of the Falcons’ skill position players, with former first-round picks Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson failing to reach their full potential. Things will be scaled back for him now and he’ll serve an offensive coordinator instead of a head coach.
“There was some good lessons learned,” Smith said of his time in Atlanta. “It’ll help me here, especially with some of the young players that we have and how you fit the offense and try to play to those guys’ strengths.”
Building a relationship with Pickett and the offensive players is Smith’s first priority to getting the unit in the right direction.
“I think everybody I’ve ever tried to coach, whether it’s been one day or five years, you try to build a relationship and get to know the person first,” Smith said. “This is a relationship business, and everybody’s different, and that’s one thing I’ll certainly go out of my way to make sure that we have a relationship.”