The Steelers Week 7 game against the Miami Dolphins was their 5th decided by eight points or less. They are now 2-3 in those games. The Steelers 2-5 record is bad, and the team is bad, but they are also just good enough to keep games close.
Let’s look at the Pittsburgh Steelers snap counts from Week 7, and see where they fell short.
The offensive line continues to play the whole game, and this week Kenny Pickett joined them. Pickett has now played two 100% games, and both of them involved exactly 75 snaps. He’s also 0-2 in those games.
The wide receiver room is exactly three-wide receivers deep, and that is fine as Pat Freiermuth offers more value than any No. 4 wide receiver you will find in the league. Freiermuth’s 7.6 yards per target is second on the team among qualifying receivers and ranks tenth among NFL tight ends. It’s good to see him back on the field, even if the Steelers eased him in with a lighter workload at 59% of snaps. On the other side of the coin, Diontae Johnson leads all Steelers non-linemen offensive players in snaps, leads the team in targets by a healthy margin and is now second in yards on the team to George Pickens. Johnson’s 5.0 yards per target is only higher than Najee Harris’s 3.9 yards per target. It’s okay for a running back to have low yards per target, they get a lot of dump offs that sacrifice yards to protect the quarterback from taking hits. But Diontae Johnson is the Steelers No. 1 receiver, and he is also their least efficient one.
George Pickens has a higher catch rate, higher yards per reception, a significantly higher average depth of target and more total yards after the catch than Johnson. Johnson currently is the worst receiver on the Steelers in catch rate, yards per target, yards after catch per reception and quarterback rating when targeted by a huge margin. The second lowest is Miles Boykin at 66.7, Diontae Johnson is at 39.2.
It’s possible to make an argument that Johnson is the Steelers worst wide receiver, because he is so inefficient, and yet he continues to lead all the Steelers offensive weapons in snaps and targets every week.
The Steelers offense doesn’t score enough, and end up with turnovers anytime they really need to push the ball downfield. The quarterback being a rookie is a problem. The scheme is a problem, but right now, their No. 1 receiver is also a problem.
Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick played 100% of the snaps together for the first time since Week 2, and they were a big reason the Dolphins only scored 16 points in a game where their quarterback was not sacked, hit one time, and didn’t face a lot of pressure. They are a major strength on this defense and the veteran benefit contract the Steelers signed Edmunds to for this year is one of the biggest steals of the 2022 NFL season.
With Ahkello Witherspoon out and Cameron Sutton missing most of the second half of the game, Levi Wallace led the cornerbacks in snaps with Arthur Maulet, Sutton and James Pierre splitting the rest of the time. Pierre came in early in the third quarter after Sutton and Edmunds tackled the Dolphins running back on a pass over the middle. Sutton wasn’t discussed as an injury, so it is possible he was benched. The Steelers defense played much better after the change and only gave up two first downs the rest of the game.
With Cameron Heyward healthy and Larry Ogunjobi playing well, the Steelers leaned heavily on those two, switching in other lineman for the Steelers 3-4 looks as well as their 4-3 looks with a linemen playing on the edge. Malik Reed played 53% of snaps this game as the Steelers No. 2 outside linebacker, which shows how much the defense has changed with Watt out, but he was also recorded the team’s only QB hit.
The Steelers defense held the Dolphins in check well in Week 7, completely shutting them down for most of the second half, but they weren’t able to record any splash plays that might have set up the Steelers struggling offense for more success.
The offense isn’t good enough to score points, and the defense can hold teams to reasonable scores but isn’t going to dominate the way they would have to if they were going to drag the Steelers offense to a respectable win-loss record.