The Pittsburgh Steelers offense isn’t playing great football heading into their Week 8 game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, when you look at the overall rankings for the offense, it isn’t pretty.
Rush yds/game: 87.9 (27th)
Pass yds/game: 210.7 (24th)
Total yds/game: 298.6 (30th)
Points/game: 15.3 (31st)
Fans, and media, get restless with the offense, and they want someone, or something, to blame. Of course offensive coordinator Matt Canada shoulder the majority of said blame, but fans also bemoan the lack of big plays as a reason the Steelers’ offense is struggling.
Throughout his tenure with the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has always referred to these big plays as “splash plays”. So, when rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett took questions from the media Wednesday, he was asked what the offense needs to do to create more “splash”?
“I think giving guys balls on the run where they can run after catch and get good opportunities there.” Pickett said when asked what the offense is working on the create opportunities for big plays.
“I think it’s not just about throwing it deep. Sometimes, in the NFL, we’ve got to scheme the deep balls; you’re not going to just run by some of these guys. If they’re playing soft covers, you can’t do it. You get guys the ball on the run and let our athletes be athletes and get them in space. That’s another way we can get some of the splash plays. So, there’s different ways to do it. We’re working hard at it.”
There have been both fan and media narratives talking about how the Steelers aren’t driving the ball down the field enough, but as Pickett said, those opportunities aren’t always available. At the same time, it isn’t as if the Steelers’ offense hasn’t moved the ball, but when they do it is a slow, methodical way of moving down the field. Those long drives can be great for controlling the clock, yet can also lead to negative plays.
“When you’ve got 14-play drives, 11-play drives, to go all the way down and score without a false start, without something that sets you back, like we saw that happen to us, it makes it hard.” Pickett said. “The splash plays shorten drives up and give us better opportunities. Guys are fresh. Overall, I think you see more production out of the offense when you have splash plays and points are going to be put up on the board. It’s something that we need to get right.”
For Pickett specifically, how much of this comes down to him trusting his receivers to make a play, and the coordinator’s ability to scheme up the desired plays?
“Like I said, it’s both. We can’t press about it. We have to let it happen. We have to get it in the right coverage and hit the shots when they’re there. If they’re not there, we have to check it down or hit some of underneath and let those guys go do their thing. You can’t play pressed as a player, bad things happen. We’ll take it as we see it; if they’re there, we’ll obviously take them and if not, we’ll move on to the next play.”
This is when you get into the risk vs. reward component of play. You can risk taking those deep shots, but the reward isn’t always the intended outcome.
“I mean, you look at some of the turnover plays, man, like a ball getting tipped or Chase [Claypool] getting his feet tangled up.” Pickett recalled. “Some things just don’t go your way. That’s life, that’s football. But like you said, there’s times where we have to take chances and give our guys the chance to make plays down the field.
“So, there’s a fine line between it and we’re trying to balance that out. Possessing the ball is going to be huge this week. It’s a team that causes a lot of turnovers and they don’t give the ball up either. That’s a huge reason as to why they’re 6-0, how sound they are in that aspect of the game. It’s something to keep in mind as we work.”
If the Steelers stand a chance vs. the Eagles this Sunday, they’ll have to do something which they haven’t done much, if at all, this season. That would be scoring points, and not turning the football over. Pickett is capable of both, and unfortunately the latter of the two has been the dominant number on his stat line.
Can he make the change? Can the offense finally come to life? It will be a necessity if the Steelers want to hand Philadelphia their first loss of the season.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 8 trip to Philadelphia before their bye week.