The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 16, beating the Las Vegas Raiders 13-10 in dramatic fashion. For the first time this season, and in Kenny Pickett’s young career, the offense was able to go down the field in a two-minute drill and cap it off with a beautiful touchdown from Pickett to fellow rookie George Pickens.
After that drive, and moment, many are believing in the Steelers young offense. That the group is finally rounding the bend and becoming a more complete unit. However, when offensive coordinator Matt Canada met with the media this week, he pumped the breaks on those general thoughts.
“I think there were tough conditions and all those things. We kept pushing and kept being close, we got the ball. We had some opportunities across the 50 that we didn’t score in, right? We had some chances where we didn’t make some plays throughout the game, for multiple reasons. But the last drive of the game was obviously two-minute drill that you’ve got to do, and you’ve got to execute it.
“Kenny obviously is the quarterback, to your question, and did a good job. But we had a lot of guys that did a nice job taking what was there. Naj [Najee Harris] had a couple of good catches in that drive that got us where we needed to be, a big one to Pat [Freiermuth], and then obviously, the touchdown to George [Pickens]. So, everybody did a nice job. All those guys are growing and improving. You’ve got two guys that are second-year players and two guys that are first-year players.
“So, it was a drive, but it’s a drive that we all expect, and we needed to have happen, but certainly happy that it did.”
Of course the coach is going to simply suggest the group just did their job. This sentiment was echoed by Pickett in his post-game interview. But the natural follow-up question for Canada was his thoughts on the group as a whole. Is this a different group now?
“Oh, I don’t know.” Canada said. “I mean, yeah, I think anytime you have success like that, it’s good, right? You have—how many two-minute drills have we done out here? We practice it a lot but winning a two-minute drill out here is way different than winning it in a game under the lights on Christmas eve and all those things. So, yeah, that adds come confidence, I think. But you’re only as good as the next one.”
What fans really want to see is just some form of tangible growth by the offense. Progress is progress, and some would call the two-minute drive vs. the Raiders as evidence of the growth. But all you have to do is look at the same situation vs. the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football in Week 6 as an example of when things didn’t work out.
“That’s a great example of when it didn’t and again, I don’t ever want to put it on—I don’t want to play coach clicker.” Canada said when referring back to the failed drives vs. the Dolphins. “There are always reasons for those things. Multiple people are involved in success and failure. But for sure, from that game that we obviously felt like we let get away that you referenced, the Dolphins game, to this game where we had a chance to win and won it. So yeah, I think that’s definitely growth for Kenny, first and foremost, the quarterback gets credit and the blame. So, you’re exactly right. But I think it’s growth for everybody.”
Throughout it all, the biggest issue plaguing the Pickett-led offense has been their inability to capitalize in the red-zone. When the field gets short, the offense struggles and seems to settle for more field goals than touchdowns. It’s the next step in the process.
“Like I said, those opportunities, we’ve crossed the 50-yard line where I think we’ve had four turnovers when we’ve crossed the 50-yard line. In the last three games, we’ve not done as good a job in some situations there, and then we’ve missed some plays on third-down that you can either kick field goals or whatever happens. So, that is the kind of the final frontier.
“We’ve been talking about that. There’re opportunities just to make sure we score and some of them aren’t even in the traditional red-zone as you’re referencing. Some of them are outside of there, but we get into that area, we’ve got to go score points. You’re exactly right. It’s got to happen. We can talk about it, rep it, we’re certainly doing those things. Being young is not an excuse. None of that. We’ve got to produce those, things have to happen, but I think we’re getting closer. We’re making more of them, but we just have got to get them all.”
When it comes to the Steelers Week 17 game in Baltimore, points are points, but having the ability to put up touchdowns would force the run-heavy Ravens to have to abandon the run and go to the pass to try and win. With Tyler Huntley at quarterback, it would fall right into the lap of the Steelers’ defense.
That is easier said than done.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their division rivals on Sunday night in Week 17.