By now, new Pittsburgh Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith has likely had the opportunity to look over his personnel. It’s doubtful he’s had enough time to really determine who will fit where but Smith has been around the National Football League long enough now to know that he largely has to work with what he’s been provided. Through free agency and the Draft, that personnel will eventually work itself out, but to what end? While Smith’s job may seem daunting, there’s one particular area that will likely be the truest measure of success and it might not be as easy as some think.
During our preparations for the 2023 season, we talked a lot about what Matt Canada’s offense needed to do on our flagship podcast. During the 2022 season, the Steelers under Matt Canada averaged 18.1 points per game. Many fans and ‘wannabe experts’ claimed the Steelers could easily get to 25 points a game under Canada and Kenny Pickett who finished his rookie season on a very strong run of solid play.
What these folks didn’t realize is how difficult making such a jump was. Going from 18 to 25 points per game is a full touchdown better and sure, it seems easy enough but in the season prior, only two teams (the Lions and Jaguars) were able to improve by a full touchdown or more per game. We opined that getting to 22 or 23 points per game was probably more realistic yet in the end, the Steelers couldn’t even do that.
In 2023, even with those two 30-point outbursts led by Mason Rudolph, the Steelers still could only muster 17.9 points per game. In Ben Roethlisberger’s final season – 2021 – the offense scored only 20.2 PPG so even him leading the way couldn’t affect much change. You’d have to go back to the 2020 season -Randy Fichtner’s final as Offensive Coordinator – to find the Steelers actually scoring points. They averaged 26 PPG that year which still only had them in 12th across the league in this category.
Points per game will not be at the top of Smith’s ‘to-do’ list per se because he has to implement an entirely new offensive system. As the saying goes, you have to crawl before you can walk. On the surface however, fans and TV talking heads will point much more towards the points per game simply because it’s low-hanging fruit. If Smith can even add five points per game to this past year’s average that would be a success in my book.