The Steelers are having one of their worst seasons since 1970, and there are a lot of problems to address on this team. With the bye week behind us, I wanted to dig more into each position and grade them individually. I’ll be including the snap counts as well. We’ll start with the offense.
The offensive line has been surprisingly good after an offseason re-work and absolutely awful play in the preseason. A big part of the success has been continuity. The starting line has missed a total of five snaps combined. The Steelers have also used a 6th offensive lineman a total of 5 times in 8 games. The only big complaint I have against the unit is they have no one who can handle top tier defensive tackles, and when they face one, that player lives in the Steelers backfield. They aren’t a great offensive line, but they aren’t bad either.
Honor Roll: James Daniels, Chukwuma Okorafor, consistently solid play.
Demerits: Lack of a top tier blocker, Dan Moore Jr’s struggles as a run blocker.
Position Grade: C
With both quarterbacks starting 4 games and playing in five, their record is the same. Of course, Mitchell Trubisky came in to score the final (and game deciding) touchdown in Kenny Pickett’s only win, but Pickett scored 14 of the Steelers 20 points in a 4-point loss to the Jets after Trubisky was benched.
The stats aren’t good for either quarterback, but what stands out the most is Kenny Pickett’s interceptions, and his better rushing stats. Neither quarterback has been good, and both played their best football when they came in off the bench. For the first half of the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers did not have a real starting quarterback.
Honor Roll: Trubisky avoiding turnovers, Pickett showing some flashes
Demerits: No scoring plays longer than 8 yards, abysmal overall passing stats.
Position Grade: F
Najee Harris’s status as the #1 back is an issue with a lot of Steelers fans, because of the yards per attempt disparity between Harris and Jaylen Warren, but the team hasn’t agreed, and Harris has dominated in snaps and touches for the first half of the season. Harris has nagging injuries and isn’t the same back he was last year. The offensive line is blocking better than they were in 2021, and while Warren has taken advantage, so far Harris hasn’t been able to.
With Harris recording 3.47 yards per carry/target versus Warren’s 5.6, the team may be forced to increase Warren’s presence on the field. The bye week is a traditional point where non-starting rookies get a boost in their playtime and impact. It’s time to stop putting so much wear on Harris when he’s not himself, and play the more effective runner more.
Derek Watt has received a few plays on offense and caught a touchdown from Chase Claypool in Week 8, and it is nice to see him being used at least a little bit. But for the most part he, like Benny Snell is on the team as a key special teams player, and both are very good in those roles.
Honor Roll: Jaylen Warren’s impact in small samples. Special teams' leadership.
Demerits: Bottom ten rushing offense, division of labor.
Position Grade: D-
Before the season I brought up that the Steelers tight ends could be the best unit on this offense, and so far, it looks like I have been right. Pat Freiermuth ranks second on the team in receiving yards. Diontae Johnson ranks first by 5 yards, but with 28 more targets. And that is where the tight ends have shined, as a position group they are averaging 7.85 yards per target, and the top four players on the Steelers for yards per target are the three tight ends and George Pickens.
They are also solid blockers, even if they haven’t been as good in run blocking as they were last season. Connor Heyward has been a staple on special teams, and while he struggled early on, he’s improved a lot and looks like he will become a core special teams player going forward.
Honor Roll: Catching the ball, blocking, Connor Heyward’s growth.
Demerits: Production falls apart when Freiermuth is out, regression as blockers
Position Grade: B
It’s not hard to single out Diontae Johnson’s production, especially his miserable 4.9 yards per target and his zero touchdowns as a major problem for the Steelers offense. Some of the blame falls on Johnson, but some also falls on the quarterbacks and coaches. The relationship the Steelers invested a lot of money in is currently failing, and that needs to get straightened out in the second half of the season.
George Pickens isn’t a complete receiver, a lot of his routes are sloppy, and he often puts himself in positions where he isn’t a viable target. But even with that, he’s dynamic enough to lead all Steelers with more than 6 targets in yards per target and is only 34 yards behind Diontae Johnson despite receiving 44% fewer targets. The Steelers moving on from Chase Claypool shows that the Steelers plan to invest a lot more into Pickens in the second half of the season, and it also shows they aren’t ready to give up on Diontae Johnson either.
Chase Claypool wasn’t a major problem with the Steelers offense, but he was in Pickens’ way and the Steelers moved him out of the way. Let’s hope it works out well.
On special teams Gunner Olszewski hasn’t been great, but Myles Boykin has been fantastic, and Steven Sims seems poised to take on a bigger role on offense and special teams in the second half of the season.
Honor Roll: George Pickens, Myles Boykin’s ST play
Demerits: Diontae Johnson’s efficiency, lack of touchdowns, league worst yards after catch rate
Overall Grade: F
The Steelers offense is in shambles. Their main weapons, Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson, are not producing anywhere close to acceptable yards per play, and yet they remain the focus of the offense while other players that are producing more lag behind in opportunity.
The play calling is a problem, but not at all the biggest problem for the coaching staff. The Steelers need to use their more productive players more, and find ways to use their main offensive weapons more effectively. They also need to keep an eye on Kenny Pickett, because his play seemed to regress in Week 8. If that continues they need to get him out of there and play someone else. Benching a rookie might hurt his confidence, but this Steelers offense is bad enough that a young quarterback isn’t going to be able to build good NFL quarterback habits. We’ve seen that with the Cleveland Browns over the years, they would ruin a young and talented quarterback and then take a new one only to ruin them as well. The Steelers don’t want to start down that path.
Honor Roll: Offensive Line coach Pat Meyer. He’s done a good job.
Demerits: Play calling, play design, personnel usage, results, hats...
Coaching Grade: F
The Steelers have the worst scoring offense in the NFL per drive, they are bottom five in yards per drive and have a high turnover rate. We’ve had teams with glaring weaknesses before, in 2020 the Steelers were the worst run team in the NFL, but this is points. The entire point of an offense is to score points, and the Steelers are the worst in the NFL. You can’t get worse than that.
Final Grade: F (imagine that F in Browns orange for the proper effect)
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers offense and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Grade the Steelers offense through the first half of the season
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