For only the second time of his long tenure, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had to make an outside coordinator hire. The normally steady Steelers are an organization who promotes from within, Todd Haley in 2012 the only exception. But this offseason has proven to throw the “Steelers playbook” out the window. Literally and figuratively. Not only is Matt Canada’s offense officially scrapped, Pittsburgh went outside their building to find his replacement. It led them to Arthur Smith, fired as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach, and stepping back into the coordinator role he held for two successful years with the Tennessee Titans.

Speaking with reporters during the 2024 Owners Meetings in Orlando, Tomlin spoke about why he hired Smith.

“I respect his approach [to] ball,” he said via The Athletic’s Mike DeFabo. “His values are very evident. Looking at his tape, they are aligned with things that we value – controlling the game through our bigs and building from there.”

While Smith brings his own style, the philosophy is the same. Run the ball, be physical, and wear the opposition down. In his two years as Titans’ OC, Tennessee was second in the league with 966 rushing attempts. They only trailed the Baltimore Ravens, who utilized Lamar Jackson’s legs far more than the Titans could with Ryan Tannehill.

In three years as the Falcons’ head coach, Atlanta ranked seventh in rushing attempts. An even more telling number knowing they finished all three seasons 7-10, not having the benefit of running the ball to grind out clock like other clubs who litter the top ten (the Eagles, Ravens, and 49ers all make up the top five, for example).

With Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, the Steelers want to run the ball early and often. It’s how they won down the stretch in 2022 and it’s how they won throughout most of 2023. A focus on the offensive line could also signal where the team is headed with their first round pick, potentially targeting a center to anchor the middle of the Steelers’ offense.

But Smith’s offense could bring changes. More play-action. Less three-receiver sets. Possibly the use of a fullback, though the Steelers haven’t added anyone with NFL experience in that role (Connor Heyward and Jack Colletto are in-house options).

Regardless of style or philosophy, the only thing that matters is Pittsburgh putting more points on the board. If they can’t do that, the Steelers will end up back at the drawing board. And there will probably be “Fire Arthur Smith” signs at your local College Gameday campus.

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