Arthur Smith and the Steelers: What Could Be the New Offense

Arthur Smith’s entry as the new offensive coordinator for the Steelers marks a pivotal turn for the team’s offense, especially with his notable history of prioritizing strong rushing attacks and optimizing play-action passes.

Major changes are on the horizon for the Steeler’s, and running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren should be thrilled. Starting from rock bottom offensively the past three seasons, Steelers fans are hoping the only way is up, especially with the added hope that the new quarterbacks can succeed in this system.

Arthur Smith’s Offensive Strategy

At the heart of Smith’s approach is a robust power-run scheme complemented by an intelligent use of play-action passes, which has historically led to substantial gains on the field. Let’s break down the core components:

Run Game and Tight Ends

This offense utilizes 12 personnel (two wide receivers, one tight end, two running backs), with focus on enhancing the run game, which will result in less slot receivers and more fullbacks. Smith has had a lot of success with this game plan, including some of Derrick Henry’s record-breaking season.

Quarterback-Friendly System

There will be a heavy reliance on play-action passes, and it will be glorious. Something I’ve begged to see on my TV for many Sunday’s. We saw Ryan Tannehill have some of his best seasons as a pro in Tennessee while Smith was the Offensive Coordinator.

We’ve also seen Russell Wilson have success in a heavy run offense with Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. Any sort of competence in the in the backfield will aid Wilson to capitalize in the passing game. This offense provides a rhythmic-timing passing game where quarterbacks throw to a predetermined spot, expecting the receiver to meet the ball across or down the field.

Physicality and Simplicity

With an emphasis on physical wide-zone run schemes, it encourages players to be tough and finish blocks. Offensive strategies include simple route concepts to ensure adaptability and effectiveness. Smith’s philosophy is using the best players, regardless of draft status or salary, to foster a competitive and high-performing team environment.

Analyzing the Data Behind Smith’s Success

Diving into the statistical achievements of Arthur Smith’s offenses, this should provide a little more optimism for Steelers fans despite how his tenure in Atlanta ended.

Running Game

Inside and outside zone schemes under Smith have not only been effective but have thrived. This ultimately led to an impressive Expected Points Added (EPA) and success rates. The Titans averaged 153.5 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry in Smith’s first year on the job. We also saw Derrick Henry’s phenomenal seasons (2019: 1540 yards, 16 TDs; 2020: 2027 yards, 17 TDs) exemplifying the potential of Steelers’ RB’s, especially for you fantasy football players.

Red Zone Efficiency

Smith’s offense with the Titans led the NFL in red zone efficiency in 2019 and 2020, boasting touchdown rates of 75.6% and 75.0%, respectively. Music to my ears. This is a stark contrast with the Steelers trend of being awful in the redzone over the past few seasons. If Chris Boswell was not such a special teams weapon, they would have somehow been even worse. 

Quarterback and Receiver Impact

Titans’ passing stats under Smith:

2019: Ryan Tannehill – 70% completion, 22 TDs, 117.5 rating.

2020: Tannehill – 66% completion, 33 TDs, 106.5 rating.

The success of AJ Brown under Arthur Smith:

2019: 1051 yards, 8 TDs.

2020: 1075 yards, 11 TDs

Arthur Smith’s track record of elevating offensive play, particularly in rushing and red zone efficiency, combined with his ability to maximize quarterback and receiver production, sets the stage for an exciting transformation within the Steelers’ offense.

Quarterback Dynamics

Under Smith, Russell Wilson might see a shift towards a game plan that doesn’t rely on him throwing extensively. I don’t think any fans expected him to be the air raid QB he has been in a handful of his NFL seasons. It’s a huge positive that Smith has a veteran QB in Wilson to help install this system.

If this relationship can show signs of steadyness and consistency, then the Steelers are in a better spot offensively than they have been in three years. We all saw the growing pains and unreliability young quarterbacks bring. Whether it is turning the ball over, taking bad sacks, missing blitzers in pass protection. These reads take experience and time and the Steelers didn’t really have either of those.

Running Game Reinforcement

Najee Harris is poised to be the central figure heading into a contract year. With the Steelers likely to exercise his fifth-year option and possibly extend his contract. Jaylen Warren will continue to be the change-of-pace back but he has shown that he is a capable starter when given the touches. Love that this dynamic duo has a chance to make some major noise across the league. They added Cordarrelle Patterson who adds a new wrinkle in the running game. 

Wide Receiver and Tight End Utilization

It’s George Pickens’ time to shine. It’s clear the Steelers believe in him as a number one WR option after trading Diontae Johnson. He’s shown that he’s capable of that every time he touched the ball (which was hard to come by last year). In other cases, if the Steelers offense gets going, Pickens has shown his ability to block on the outside. 

The tight end position is crucial in Smith’s offense for blocking and receiving, and this unit will likely see enhanced roles between Pat Freiermuth and Darnell Washington. These two tight ends complement each others skillsets well. Friermuth makes plays down the field in the receiving game, but he was criticized for his blocking technique. Darnell Washington can be viewed as an extended tackle. He’s fun to watch when he gets the ball in his hands though. 

Hopefully these two spend much more time together and compliment each others growth and development across their skillsets.  The Steelers’ offense, under Smith’s tutelage, is in the midst of significant overhaul. 


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