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Steelers could use 30 percent more fullback snaps under Arthur Smith, says team analyst

Steelers could use 30 percent more fullback snaps under Arthur Smith, says team analyst
Steelers could use 30 percent more fullback snaps under Arthur Smith, says team analyst

In Pittsburgh, Arthur Smith’s offense will likely look like the units he ran as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans and as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. That means putting big guys on the field, including a fullback. That offense has died out in most offenses, but in Pittsburgh it could be revived.

Former Steelers lineman and current sports commentator Craig Wolfley, who appeared on the Big Blue Kickoff podcast on Monday, estimated that the team will use a fullback far more often under Smith this year.

“Multiple tight end sets, whether it’s 12 or 13 men,” Wolfley told anchor Paul Dottino. “Multiple tight ends plus jumbo, more quarterbacks under center, probably 30 percent more fullback-oriented snaps. So I think we’ll see a lot of different things, but it’ll be some sort of physical ‘running after’.”

In Tennessee, Smith’s offense used Khari Blasingame. In 2020, he played 165 snaps, 16 percent of the total. In addition to occasional touches in the passing game, his job was to block for RB Derrick Henry. In Atlanta, Keith Smith had a similar but even more frequent role. From 2021-2023, he played at least 185 offensive snaps each season and at least 20 percent of the offensive total each year. During that time, he had just 13 receptions and 10 carries. That’s a departure from the few teams that use a fullback today, many use them as a hybrid like in the ’80s. For Smith, his man was a proven lead blocker.

Given Smith’s track record, Wolfley’s 30 percent estimate is probably a bit high. But the more interesting question than getting lost in percentages is who could be Pittsburgh’s fullback. There’s no real and obvious name on the list. Connor Heyward could fill that role, although he feels more like an H-back with no lead blocking experience. He’s been effective moving around the formation and lining up as a Y-off on split-zone looks, something he could do frequently in this offense. But in the backfield in the I-shape? That would be an adjustment.

And what about Jack Colletto? He was a jack of all trades in college and is on the team’s roster as a fullback. He’s athletic and got a lot of buzz in the spring, but he also needs to prove himself as a blocker and has an uphill battle to get into the 53. But so did Will Johnson and Roosevelt Nix, and they exceeded expectations. Tight end MyCole Pruitt is another theoretical possibility. He spent much of his career under Smith and most of the work was inline, but he’s also gotten a few opportunities in the backfield.

It will be one of many stories we will follow in training camp. While Smith won’t reveal everything in training camp or the preseason, he will lay the groundwork. We will get an idea of ​​how much heavy lifting there will be and how many fullbacks the team will use, including the players who will get those assignments.