Arthur Smith is 100% Mike Tomlin’s type of OC
Don’t look now, but Mike Tomlin done got his man. The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly hired former Atlanta Falcons HC Arthur Smith as their next offensive coordinator. While nothing has been made official on the Steelers official website, we are all assuming that Smith merely needs to sign along the dotted line to make it that way.
One thing that we know for sure, this was 100% Mike Tomlin’s decision. Art Rooney II emphasized no less in a recent interview. That revelation was like a breath of fresh air for the organization. There has been far too much speculation about Tomlin’s influence in coaching hirings and firings down through the years. Now we know that the buck stops with him, and him alone.
In my opinion, that’s exactly as it should be. Clarity is needed in these types of organizational decisions. I question if Tomlin has been afforded this level of control in past decisions, and I believe it played a huge part in Tomlin’s cautious delay in signing a contract extension. Tomlin wants to continue coaching for the Steelers, and ownership has been open about their intentions to offer him an extension, but Tomlin wisely confirmed the parameters of his control prior to signing any extension.
Now Tomlin definitely has an offensive coordinator that perfectly fits his vision. Arthur Smith’s hiring surprised me, if I am being totally honest, because of a statement made by Mr. Rooney in the aforementioned interview. Rooney implied that the Steelers wanted to bring a fresh and innovative offensive approach into the equation. In my opinion, Arthur Smith is the polar opposite of that description. Smith is as old-school as they come.
Smith employs plenty of run heavy concepts. Two tight end sets. Plenty of play action from under center, with an emphasis on working the middle of the field. If these descriptive phrases sound familiar, it’s totally understandable, because I have been begging for the Steelers coaches to properly utilize these concepts for years. The Steelers found success when they did implement them on occasion, but those incidents were few and far between. That should mercifully improve under Smith’s guidance.
Smith really is the perfect OC for Tomlin, because Tomlin is old-school to his very core. Tomlin is a Tony Dungy disciple. Tomlin was part of Dungy’s staff in Tampa Bay. He was part of the coaching staff that eventually won the Super Bowl in 2002 under Jon Gruden. That confluence of events shaped Tomlin into the man and head coach that he is today. Tomlin is far more mentor than tactician as a head coach. He learned the value of consistency, class, and character from his time with Dungy. Tomlin also learned the value of a truly balanced football team.
Let’s take a second to reminisce about that 2002 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers team. They were the epitome of a well balanced team. On offense, they were conservatively efficient. Starting QB Brad Johnson was far from elite, but the conservatively efficient description fits him perfectly. The Buccaneers had a punishing ground attack, led by Mike Alstott. Their passing attack effectively played off their consistently efficient running game. On defense, the Buccaneers had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers. Names like Sapp, Brooks, Rice, Barber, and Lynch immediately come to mind. The Buccaneers played to their strengths, and they truly had precious few weaknesses.
I have always believed that Tomlin wants nothing more than to recreate that type of roster in Pittsburgh. Tomlin enjoyed the perks of similarly constructed rosters during his first two Super Bowl appearances, but his rosters have been undoubtedly top heavy since his last title game appearance.
Tomlin doesn’t want to be carried by an elite Killer B’s style offense, or by a record setting T.J. Watt led defense. He wants a well balanced roster. Arthur Smith’s hiring could be the first sign that Mike Tomlin maybe getting final say in these coaching staff construction decisions. His influence and impact with roster construction is unmistakable, as is his importance to Omar Khan and Andy Weidl, particularly in prospect evaluations.
Make no mistake about it. For the first time in his Steelers tenure, Tomlin is in clear control of his Steelers destiny.