The Pittsburgh Steelers are reeling. Following Week 3’s ugly loss to the Cleveland Browns, there are growing murmurs of starting Kenny Pickett and calls to fire offensive coordinator, Matt Canada. With all the uncertainty surrounding the team and the future, let’s bust some myths and tell some truths for the 2022 Steelers.
The Steelers Defense Will be Okay Without T.J. Watt
Following the Week 3 defeat, the Steelers are now 0-6 without T.J. Watt. The defense gives up roughly five more points per game to opposing offenses (25.8), and the defense averages about two fewer sacks per game (1.6). The reigning 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year has the ability to wreck games and without him on the field, opposing offenses no longer have to worry about shifting protection to Watt’s side. With Watt on the field, the difference is night and day. The Steelers are 52-24-2 with him on the field.
Additionally, the unit is giving up 428 yards rushing through three games and 756 passing yards per game, both bottom five in the league, per NFL.com.
Watt doesn’t account for everything the defense does, but the numbers speak for themselves. The Steelers are just a different team with him on the field.
The Steelers Need to Start Kenny Pickett NOW
I’ve been stressing this for the past several months, the Steelers cannot afford to mortgage their future by rushing Kenny Pickett onto the field, especially behind a subpar offensive line and questionable play-calling from OC, Matt Canada. We now know that the dink-and-dunk style of play during Ben Roethlisberger’s final years was not because of the future Hall of Famer; rather, they were Canada’s schemes.
If you start Pickett now, the above problems still exist and the defense isn’t getting off the field. Head coach, Mike Tomlin spoke to the media following Thursday night’s loss and bluntly shot down any speculation of Pickett starting or any personnel changes:
“I’m not in that mindset. I’m interested in reviewing the tape and looking at the totality of it and figuring out how we collectively get better. The answer to that question is definitively no.”
It’s unlike Coach Tomlin to make such a drastic change during the season given his conservative style throughout the years. If changes were to happen, they may come later in the year, specifically in Week 9 during their bye week.
The Steelers Need to Get George Pickens More Involved in the Offense
In case you were living under a rock, rookie wide receiver, George Pickens, made the catch of the year, and perhaps, the catch of the decade on Thursday night.
GEORGE PICKENS WHAT A CATCH 🤯
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) September 23, 2022
Throughout the week, there were talks from Mitch Trubisky to get Pickens more involved in the offense. The message was received. On Thursday, Pickens was targeted seven times and logged 39 yards receiving, which are both more than Week 1 and Week 2 combined. The explosiveness and athleticism of Pickens is for real and the Steelers would be remiss if they didn’t adjust the game plan moving forward to get him consistently involved.
Najee Harris is Good, But Should We See More of Jaylen Warren?
If you take away Warren’s fumble, one could argue that he looked as good, if not, better than Harris. Warren was especially effective in the no-huddle offense. Through three games this year, Warren has been statistically better than Harris in yards before contact (YBC) and yards after contact (YAC).
Steelers backfield on Thursday:
-Najee Harris: 1.13 YBC, 2.6 YAC
-Jaylen Warren: 5 YBC, 2.5 YAC👀
-Harris: 0.7 YBC, 2.5 YAC
-Warren: 2.3 YBC, 2.5 YAC👀
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) September 23, 2022
This is a trip down memory lane for Harris as last year he averaged a measly 1.7 which put him in the bottom six of qualified running backs. Adding Harris’ injury issues, it would absolutely make sense to feature more of Warren to keep him healthy. If Warren can solve his fumbling issues, this could become a dangerous one-two punch for the Steelers this season.
Coach Tomlin Will Have His First Losing Season
All good things must come to an end, right? After 15 straight glorious years of never finishing below .500, Coach Tomlin will experience his first, and worst season thus far. It’s a tough pill for Steeler Nation to swallow, but if you look at the statistics on both sides of the ball, it’s unfavorable to the team’s chances of securing a winning record, particularly with a brutal stretch of games coming up for the Steelers (Jets, @Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, @Eagles). By midseason, we could be looking at a 2-7 team.
What do yinz think of the season so far? What needs to change? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!