The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a tough 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon and didn’t do too much right, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The positive of what transpired was that all other teams in the AFC North lost and that keeps Pittsburgh at the top of the standings in the division. The negative is they have a quick turnaround and have to travel to play the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football this week. Everything won’t be corrected by then, but the Steelers need to focus on some pressing concerns during the short week.
1.) Developing An Offensive Identity
The offense has absolutely no rhythm in the first two weeks of the regular season and has a total of just 510 yards. Fans can blame Mitch Trubisky, who is partially at fault, but there is no flow and few positives when it comes to a play-calling perspective. Has anyone else noticed during Matt Canada‘s tenure when a quarterback goes no huddle, it is almost always more successful?
It was baffling to not see one designed run for Chase Claypool on Sunday afternoon after he had six carries in Week 1 that went for 36 yards. The only wide receiver end around Sunday was to Gunner Olszewski and it was the team’s longest run play of the day. Not to mention, Canada’s refusal to call plays down the middle of the field. The offense is so limited in what they can do.
Mitch Trubisky today:
• 1/4 on passes over 20 yards.
• Attempted just two 10+ yard passes over the middle (0/2, INT)
• 14 of 21 completions came within 6 yards of LOS.
• 14/17, TD on passes to left side of field.
• 7/16, INT on passes to right side.#Steelers @937theFan pic.twitter.com/9lppUOoopa
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) September 19, 2022
Sure, Trubisky hasn’t had a ton of success over the middle, but that’s impossible to truly measure when he only had two attempts over 10 yards in that area. The offense has had no identity, consistency or splash plays. It’s like watching paint dry. The offensive line actually performed better on Sunday and if they gel into a consistent group as the season goes on and the offense continues to sputter, that would be overly concerning.
2.) Generating A Consistent Pass Rush Without T.J. Watt
It’s almost like when the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year is on the sidelines, everyone used to playing around him may regress. The Steelers are now 0-5 when Watt doesn’t start a game and while the defense held its own, allowing just 17 points, the Patriots might not score a touchdown if Watt was playing on Sunday. After seven sacks in Week 1, the defense turned around to have none against New England.
Pair that with just three QB hits and Mac Jones was basically on vacation in the pocket. What makes Pittsburgh’s defense so good is the ability to get to the quarterback and force errant throws. The unit had a solid game plan on Sunday and Jones looked confused with his reads, but the lack of pressure afforded him the opportunity to find the open man several times.
The run defense had performed well until the Steelers needed a stop on the Patriots’ last drive of the game. They looked completely gassed and couldn’t come up with a stop when the team needed it most. Hard to ask more of this defense with the offense’s play, but they need to come up big when the game is on the line.
3.) Fix Time Of Possession Woes
People can say what they want about this team statistic not being important. They’re wrong. The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the time of possession in Week 1 and the Patriots followed that up controlling the clock for just about 34 minutes on Sunday. This goes back to the Steelers’ offensive identity. Every time your defense is on the field more than your offense, you are going to be putting yourself in more of a position to lose the game. The running game has to get going to help with this.
Pittsburgh had six drives of seven plays or less and only had two drives five minutes or longer against New England. The two drives over five minutes produced an interception and a field goal. If the defense is going to be the reason the team prevails this year, that’s fine, but they are going to need time to catch their breath on the sidelines. There are teams coming up on the schedule, like the Browns, that will completely run down the defense with their rushing attacks. The Steelers need to control the ball a lot more on offense.
There are a plethora of issues with Mike Tomlin‘s team right now. They can’t all be fixed on a short week, but these three points are a good place to start. It’s going to be a long season if they aren’t resolved.
What do you think the Steelers need to change before the Week 3 divisional matchup? Let us know in the comments below!