The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to make former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith its next offensive coordinator Smith served as the Falcons head coach from 2021-2023 but was relieved of his duties after posting a 21-30 record over that span. The news spurred Senior analyst Jamey Eisenberg to joke that running back Najee Harris, who had a strong finish to the 2023 season, is now in first-round draft pick consideration. While Jamey was having some fun with the Smith news, Harris’ Fantasy value, and the value of talented change-of-pace running back Jaylen Warren, will be a hot topic now with Smith in town.
Prior to becoming the Falcons head coach, he was the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans from 2019-2020. In 2019, Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on 303 attempts. He followed that up in 2020 with 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns on 378 attempts. In summation, Smith loves a bell cow at running back who can carry a heavy workload. If you think about the traits Henry possesses as a big-bodied back, he fits the role Smith is looking for in a bell cow more than any back he’s had since Henry.
Fantasy Football fallout
While Smith had a tough time getting his best weapons to be consistently involved in the gameplan, it’s important to note that Bijan Robinson did go over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his rookie campaign. Teams usually ease rookie running backs into heavier workloads despite how talented they may be and Robinson is no exception to the rule.
With that said, now that Smith will be partnered with Najee Harris who will be entering his fourth season in the NFL, you can rest assured he’ll be seeing the football early and often next season. Smith’s rushing attack is comprised of a great deal of outside zone which marries well with play action. He’ll mix in some inside zone on occasion, as well as some power/gap concepts. The power concepts really would accentuate the strengths of nimble interior offensive linemen like Isaac Seumalo and James Daniels.
In 2024, we can expect the Steelers to run the ball more and rely significantly less on the arm of whoever their starting quarterback may be. Harris could potentially receive anywhere between 30 and 50 more carries next season while Jaylen Warren adds another 20 to 30 carries to his workload. We know volume is king for predicting Fantasy Football success with touchdowns being a stat that tends to face regression year over year. If Smith leans on Harris as his power back, the volume we could be looking at raises his floor significantly while also providing more a ceiling than he’s had since his rookie season.