The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is one which is extremely young. When you consider the oldest players of the group are 26-yeras old, you quickly realize how the youth movement happening in Pittsburgh offensively will have some ramifications on out comes of games.
In other words, the team will have to learn how to move the ball, win games and be a cohesive unit. That can take time, but when the offense drove 76 yards on Christmas Eve for the game-winning touchdown score inside 3 minutes left in the game, it was a moment to remember.
“It’s really cool to kind of be in a moment with that unit and recognize the gravity of it.” Head coach Mike Tomlin told media Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “When we were 76 yards or so away from victory, before we took the field, we kind of gathered and said, “Man, this is a growth opportunity, this is an opportunity to display our growth, to show people where we are in terms of the ground we’ve covered”, and every body to a man agreed to that. They went out there and displayed that, made plays and pushed the ball down the field, and that’s what you do. That’s what professionals do, quality-professional individuals, quality-professional units. They rise up in those weighty moments and deliver, and they did.
“There are really probably some positive consequences for that as we move forward. There’s growth, collective growth associated with that as you move forward. It’s a place to hang your hat, that knowledge of being able to get things done in that way I think is significant for individuals and collectives.”
When speaking of weighty moments, there was no moment more weighty than the aforementioned 76-yard drive to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead. There have been players who rise up in those moments, and players who succumb to the pressure. Tomlin spoke about what he saw in his young offense prior to that drive.
“I don’t know about relative to the rest of the game, but when you’re in those weighty moments and you’re looking around at people, you’d like to feel their presence.” Tomlin said. “In a lot of instances, I did. I didn’t see big eyes; I saw sure eyes. I saw guys that understood what was at stake and guys that look prepared to go do it. Now, you’ve got to go do it, but I liked the feel of the group leading up to it.”
It was in that drive where the youth movement was on prime display. Rookie quarterback completing passes to second year players, and the final dagger to fellow rookie George Pickens. Tomlin acknowledged, and shared rare positivity and excitement about where the offense is heading.
“Second-year running back, who was big in the check-down game in that drive. You can’t run away from that. You can’t act like those realities don’t exist. But I’ve been pretty consistent in my messaging. I acknowledged it in a lot of ways, those individuals and that collective is in the process of growth. But while doing so I’ll continue to acknowledge that they’re good enough to win while doing so. We don’t grade on a curve in terms of what we expect in terms of the outcome of games.”
When people talk about offensive players and positions, nothing trumps the quarterback position. Mike Tomlin, and Kevin Colbert, will be tied to Kenny Pickett’s overall success and production with the Steelers, but many love talking about the intangible aspects of Pickett’s game. Where did he get his moxie?
“I imagine he was born with it, man.” Tomlin said of his rookie quarterback. “I know that it’s not the first time I’ve seen it. I know it’s not the first time that people from Western PA have seen it. We’ve seen him do it next door. I think that’s why we have such a great deal of comfort in his intangible quality and from a draft-evaluation perspective. We were in close proximity to it. And when you’re in close proximity to it, it becomes less intangible. You can almost feel it. It is real. I don’t think any of us are surprised by it.”
Looking at the Steelers’ overall team success, and that would also include offensive success, you can point to the bye week when things started to change. Less turnovers, a better running game and overall production. What happened during the bye week which made such a drastic change? According to Tomlin, it wasn’t so much physical work, but a recognition, or acknowledgement, of what needed to be done.
“You know, it’s not necessarily physical work. Sometimes it’s just having a pause in the action where you can analyze and acknowledge where you are, positively, negatively, and make a commitment to doing what’s required to get better or lean on your positives and work to minimize your negatives.” said Tomlin. “That’s what we did in all three phases. I give the guys credit, man, just their general receptiveness to it and the changes that we did make, they got behind. Plans are great, but the execution of plans are what makes plans special, and they’ve done a really nice job of kind of doing some of the things that we’ve highlighted.”
Even the most cynical Steelers fans can’t say the team, and mainly the offense, isn’t improving in every capacity. The offensive line has been playing well with almost an entire season together, the skill position players are finding their groove and the running game has become a positive facet of the offense. Are they a finished product? No, far from it, but the improvement in the offense is something to be excited about.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17.