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High-Pedigree Coach Could be Steelers Pass Game Solution

Could Tom Arth add something new to the Pittsburgh Steelers passing scheme that they would not have?



Pittsburgh Steelers Tom Arth

The Pittsburgh Steelers are officially interviewing Tom Arth for what Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 in Houston described as a passing game role. That likely means passing game coordinator, or at least the team being open to the idea of that title joining the staff, but does Arth actually add something that new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith does not have?

For one, let’s do a brief rundown of Arth’s history. He was the head coach at Akron for three seasons from 2019 to 2021 where the Zips won just three games. But he has deep ties dating back to his days at John Carroll, where he coached with former Chargers coach Brandon Staley, hence why he landed with the Chargers. Arth was the backup to Peyton Manning for three seasons in Indianapolis but embarked on his coaching career starting in 2010 at John Carroll, his alma mater. He would become the head coach there in 2013 and leave for Chattanooga following the 2016 season.

Of course, with the Chargers, even with Justin Herbert at the helm of it, that was not an offense that was particularly dynamic or explosive. Still, Arth’s scheme might be something that the team could work on because it is so vastly different from what Smith does in his natural passing game.

For one, Smith is a natural tight-end heavy swing with 12 personnel and condensed splits. You want to guess what Arth does? Spread them out. It’s an 11-personnel style of football. If there is one big criticism of Smith that the film shows beyond the surface, it’s that his dropback passing game is more basic, with influences from the most popular concepts in football. That’s not a bad thing innately, but it’s clear the offense likes to sit in a pocket, and when they get behind, things get dicey.

During his time at Akron, Arth used those spread looks and formations that have become common in both the Smith and other offenses, like stacked sets and bunch sets, to create traffic. But more than that, he has a diverse route tree for the running backs in his offense. For guys like Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, that is something that I have felt is untapped, and Austin Ekeler saw lots of that influence with Arth in the offensive game-planning committee.

Interestingly, they are looking to supplement Smith’s biggest weakness in his scheme with a polar opposite idea. I’m still not sure Arth is the answer. Despite what I said above, the offenses he has commanded have not become that dynamic or taken off in an elite manner. Still, his different point of view from Smith tells me that the Steelers want to maintain some level of shotgun, spread-out style of offense. It will look very different no matter what, but there might be a bit of a bridge between Smith’s scheme in Tennessee and Atlanta with more of a dropback-looking passing game if they go this direction.

Still, expect lots of under-center, play action in the Smith offense even if Arth comes aboard, but this signals that they want to add another mode into the passing game and offense. That’s a good sign for the team, especially in games where the run game might not be rolling. Arth’s resume checks the box in that he is so different than Smith, though the success has not followed him greatly since his time at the FCS level.