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Steelers Analysis

One Stat Reveals Drastic Shift in Arthur Smith’s Offense from Matt Canada

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will offer a drastic shift from what Matt Canada was doing with is personnel.



Pittsburgh Steelers OC Arthur Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense this year is expected to go heavy on the tight end usage, with fewer wide receivers on the field than the team has used in its recent history. In the past, the Steelers’ offense was near the top of the league in 11 personnel, or a grouping that sees three wide receivers on the field. Arthur Smith won’t follow that same pattern.

Last year, the Steelers had 71 percent of their snaps come with three wide receivers on the field, the 10th highest in the entire NFL. But who ranked last? Arthur Smith and the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta ran just 18 percent of their snaps out of 11 personnel, opting for more 12, 13, and 22 personnel. He relies more on running backs and tight ends than the wide receivers. With the shallow wide receiver room again this season, it would not be a surprise to see that once again.

The Steelers will have a new run scheme coming to town, too. Under Matt Canada, they primarily run inside zone and split zone as their base, but throughout the season last year, they became a more diverse team, leaning into duo and other gap runs with pulling guards. That is the way the league is actually going with how diverse they are in the run game, but Smith runs mostly one thing, and that is wide zone. Pittsburgh ran some of that under Canada, but last year, it was far from their main ingredient.

Atlanta ranked 27th in runs with a pulling guard while the Steelers ranked in the top ten. So, the question becomes how much of the previous run game stays and how much they embrace Smith’s wide zone concepts. You have to imagine that Smith’s run game schematics are going to pop in a significant amount, but it’s not crazy to consider that Smith would look around the NFL and try to pivot into embracing some of those gap schemes considering where other top play-callers are going into the 2024 NFL season with in general.

Now, the team must embrace some things to work in this scheme. The wide receivers better block, but more than that, they need that power slot receiver who can block out of those condensed sets. If they can not do that, much of his under center stuff will not work moving forward. It’s a hard sell. But the team wants to use play action to really help Russell Wilson and Justin Fields they might have in that room.

But the base change is heavier personnel, condensed formations, and working inside to outside from the jump. It’s about as drastic a shift as the Steelers can get, and they need to hope it works. Smith might need to change up some things in his scheme, too.