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Letter from the Editor: Steelers fans need a ‘Renegade Reset’

How might the Pittsburgh Steelers achieve it?

Fans look on during the game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images


It’s one of the greatest traditions living on in the hearts of Pittsburgh Steelers fans everywhere. It happens every home game; the jumbotron goes black. The song Renegade begins to play. A reel of the best defensive plays made all season is projected on every TV around the stadium. Fans scream. Terrible towels fly. The crowd finds its energy and so does the defense.

“Renegade” is usually saved for those key moments when the defense needs a stop — moments where the defense needs an injection of... umph.

That’s exactly what Steelers fans need right now. They need a “Renegade Reset.”

It’s a fascinating time to witness this fanbase, as the team sits with a 2-2 record and is set to play a Week 5 game that could give them the division lead with a win. However, there’s a feeling of unrest that seems to go far beyond the team’s record or chance to win a Super Bowl.

It’s a feeling of distrust in the coaching staff. It’s a feeling that the team continues to be complacent and content — the feeling that as long as Mike Tomlin maintains his status as a head coach who’s never had a losing season, that’s going to be just good enough. It’s a feeling that I can’t remember experiencing in this way, so heavily, despite many years of slow starts for this Pittsburgh team.

So yeah... about that “Renegade Reset.” How might the Pittsburgh Steelers achieve it?

3 ways to “Renegade” the Steelers fanbase

Relieve OC Matt Canada of his play-calling duties.

The real move at this point would be to fire Matt Canada. It doesn’t seem likely to happen, however. HC Mike Tomlin is sticking by his play-caller, who is coaching on a one-year deal that’s unlikely to be renewed anyway, even if the team did opt to bring him back again just this season for the case of maintaining consistency for their young and developing quarterback Kenny Pickett.

What could help placate the fans is to see another playcaller in the mix. There would be no shakeups in the offensive verbiage and no change in the playbook, necessarily — just a different voice calling plays from the same menu. Maybe it would make no difference at all, but keeping Canada in place also won’t make any difference. So, what is there to lose?

What this move would do is signal to the fanbase that, “Yes, Steelers fans. We hear your concerns, and we agree that the offensive output under Matt Canada’s tutelage is unacceptable. The standard is the standard — for real.”

Start rookie Joey Porter Jr. at cornerback.

Though much of the focus has been on the offense, there are plenty of changes to be made to optimize the Steelers defense — especially in the secondary. Fans have looked on all season at 33-year-old veteran CB Patrick Peterson getting picked apart by opposing defenses while rookie Joey Porter Jr. is relegated to the bench. But... why?

Through four weeks, Peterson has allowed 216 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in coverage for an average passer rating of 116.7. He leads the cornerback room in missed tackles. Meanwhile, in just 55 coverage snaps, Porter has already made his presence and physicality felt. He’s allowed just one reception on six targets in coverage this season for a 33% forced incompletion rate, including 1 pass breakup.

It’s a small sample size, sure, but is there any reason in the world that he should have played just 10 snaps on defense in Week 4? This secondary is already a mess, having allowed the seventh-most passing yards and the fourth-most passing touchdowns in the league. Show the fans that you’re looking toward the future, and get the highly anticipated rookie some reps.

Acknowledge the disappointment. Own the failures.

Mike Tomlin has kind of done so already. He also kind of hasn’t. It’s complicated.

Watching Tomlin’s pre-Week 5 presser, he acknowledged many of the downfalls of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4’s loss to the Texans. He said they needed to play with more “physicality” and talked about practice attire and the team’s lack of padded practices. It still felt like he was looking away from the elephant in the room, however.

It felt like an overemphasis on the small details (which do, of course, matter) rather than acknowledging this situation for what it is. It’s difficult to describe why, but it somehow felt dishonest — almost like gaslighting — as if the failures of the week would have really been solved by holding more padded practices.

Who knows. Maybe they would have. It’s just not the kind of ownership the fans — a loyal, headstrong, passionate, and remarkably dedicated group of people — had hoped to hear from the leader of their pack.

As your parents or guardians probably have once said, “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.”