The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team struggling, and you don’t need to remind their global fan base of this simple fact. Losers of their last four games, the Steelers have struggled in every aspect of the game; however, the team’s offense has failed to put up points with any amount of regularity.
Take a look at the offensive point totals through the first five games of the regular season:
Week 1: 23 (Included is Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick-six)
Week 2: 14
Week 3: 17
Week 4: 20
Week 5: 3
In an era of the NFL when teams are scoring points with ease, the Steelers are struggling with this basic premise. The struggles have equated in Kenny Pickett being inserted into the starting lineup, and the fan base wanting Matt Canada to get a one-way ticket out of town.
But is Mike Tomlin confident in the Steelers offense, and Canada as a play caller? He is, but there is a caveat with that confidence.
“I’m confident, but confidence means very little. It’s what’s on tape.” Tomlin said. “We understand that and we understand the nature of your questioning. That’s just where I’m at with it right now. I’m not changing for the sake of changing, I’m changing if I feel like it produces a better desired outcome in any area. So, we’re looking at those things, we’re open to those things, but not in an effort to quell the masses or anything of that nature.”
Quelling the masses is exactly what fans want, but Tomlin went into more specifics as to what was wrong with the offense. Mainly on those weighty downs.
“I think the possession downs plays that I was referring to specifically as I talked about them were double situational plays. Fourth-and-six in the red-zone, for example. Third-and-10 in the red-zone. Oftentimes, the most weighty plays are not just possession downs, but they’re also red-zone plays, and that’s what makes them, obviously, weighty.”
The Steelers have struggled in those areas, and many are pointing their fingers at the new quarterback as a reason for the offensive struggles. Nonetheless, Tomlin wasn’t critical of Kenny Pickett. Instead, he liked what he saw from the rookie signal caller. But to be clear, liking and being pleased are two completely different things.
“I liked a lot of what he did, but we lost and lost definitively, so I don’t know that we’re seeking comfort in that regard.” Tomlin said of Pickett’s play. “I know that you guys have a lot of questions regarding his growth and development. I thought he was competitive, I thought he communicated well, I thought he made good and timely decisions. Nothing disappointing in terms of what we saw from him, we just need more of it. We’ve got to get better. We have to get collectively better, and he’s a component of that.”
After the game Pickett said he is willing to do whatever he can to help the team win, and that is something Tomlin resoundingly agreed with when meeting with the media Tuesday.
“I expect him to do exactly just that.” said Tomlin. “To do what’s required to win and put us in position to win. That’s why we’re playing him at quarterback.”
So, is it safe to assume Pickett will be a focal point of the offense moving forward? That he is the guy for the job, regardless of the end result of games?
“Like I’ve mentioned repeatedly when asked about Kenny, I think since the time we stepped into the first preseason stadium, I’ve seen nothing but a rapid ascent in his capabilities, his professionalism, his mindset, what he brings to us, and I just think it’s reasonable to expect that to continue, regardless of how rough the waters are.”
Besides Canada and Pickett, there is another storyline which remains within the offense’s struggles. That isn’t just the running game, but the running back. Najee Harris hasn’t looked like himself, and Tomlin tried to define what exactly was going on with the team’s 2021 first round pick.
“He missed some time in team development, and that may be a component of him finding or not finding rhythm. But probably it’s just reflective of kind of where we are. It’s tough to analyze individual components of something when things unfolded, particularly last Sunday, the way that they unfolded from a collective perspective.”
While Harris struggles, it seems whenever Jaylen Warren touches the ball he is making plays. Making plays and making people feel it whenever they try to tackle him. Is it possible to see more Warren, and less Harris, moving forward? Tomlin didn’t rule it out, but also wasn’t about to crown Warren as an equal to Harris.
“We’ve been playing Jaylen increasingly anyway, and I think that’s going to continue. I think he’s proven that he’s a capable varsity player, and we need players from all parties involved. That has transpired and will continue to transpire.
“I think, if you talk about touches and rhythm and things of that nature, you win weighty downs, you win possession downs, and that allows you to possess the ball and to continue to snap it and that creates more opportunity for everyone, whether it’s the run game, whether it’s targets from a receiving standpoint, whether it’s running back rhythm, whether it’s things that supplement, core plays, play action, etcetera. The winning of possession downs aids all of those discussions because it produces more downs.”
Tomlin’s press conference Tuesday was one of those rare instances where the coach was left with more questions than answers. Media wanted specific answers to what was ailing the team, and Tomlin wasn’t able to provide much to quell those narratives. Nonetheless, the Steelers are at a point where talk is cheap. What the team needs now is to execute, and perform.
That will continue on Sunday when Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Acrisure Stadium in Week 6. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they press on throughout the regular season.