It’s fair to say that the offense of the Steelers excited a lot of people in their 27-17 win over the Buccaneers to open the preseason, and with good reason. Over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh’s offensive unit has been as bland as flavorless Greek yogurt, and as exciting as being on hold with a customer service agent because you can’t figure out how to work your air fryer.
Kenny Pickett and the starters kicked things off with an efficient drive that saw Diontae Johnson haul in three passes for 32 yards, and ended with Pickett slinging a dart to George Pickens on a deep in route. The man they call “NFL YoungBoy” did the rest, scampering to the end zone for six to put an exclamation point on the first drive of the Steelers’ season.
The big plays kept coming as everyone’s favorite quarterback, Mason Rudolph, stepped to his left, said “F**k it, watch this” and uncorked a perfectly thrown deep ball into the waiting arms of Calvin Austin III who went 67 yards to the end zone.
Overall, the Steelers ended the day averaging 5.7 yards per play, which would have ranked tied for fifth in the NFL last season. Now, before you get to typing in the comments of how it’s only one preseason game and the starters only played one series- I hear you. And yes, it would be wild to expect this to be the new norm that we see every Sunday once September comes- Matt Canada isn’t going to turn into Don Coryell overnight. However, even in the one series with Pickett, the offense felt different.
While I’m sure there will be times throughout the year where fans will want to show up to his doorstep with torches and pitchforks, Canada did a good job of play-calling, and Pickett was everything Pittsburgh needed him to be. He looked composed, he didn’t bail on the pocket the instance he felt the smallest fragment of pressure, and his accuracy and decision-making were on point, as they have been all of camp.
The Steelers aren’t going to be a bombs away offense, or a “No risk it, no biscuit’ offense like that or Bruce Arian’s Buccaneers. However, there were telltale signs that the leash is off of No. 8. The Steelers were 23rd in total offense in 2022, and 18th in DVOA. If both of those get bumped into the top 15, and the defense is as great as expected, the Steelers are a playoff team. So yes, it was just a preaseason game, but it gave us glimmers of what is needed- pushing the ball downfield, utilizing the intermediate passing game, and figuring out a way to get the ball into the hands of the most dynamic playmakers on the roster.