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Steelers Analysis

How the Steelers Run Game Will Change Under Arthur Smith

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a shift in their run game with Arthur Smith taking over as offensive coordinator.



Pittsburgh Steelers RB Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren during a game against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith and the team should expect to embrace his offense, which will look wildly different from what the team ran under Matt Canada. But one of the biggest areas of change will be the ground game, especially after the change that the team made down the stretch by implementing more gap schemes.

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.

The Steelers are a team that is currently constructed with the personnel that can run a lot of Smith’s 12 personnel stuff. But they won’t be able to maximize his scheme or their talent with Smith embracing the idea of what their athletic guards and tackles bring in space, in addition, to the running backs.

Now, the team will need to add 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 Kenny Pickett and other quarterbacks they might have in that room.

Smith has experience working with quarterbacks with limitations like the Steelers would boast, which is a plus. But this team is going run on either its defense or the run game cooking. The explosive plays will have to come on those play action under center looks, but they have two guys in Diontae Johnson and George Pickens that can do that.

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
February 12, 2024 9:01 am

as a true Steelers fan, both wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens will need to learn how to block in offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s system