The Pittsburgh Steelers offense proved to be a preseason mirage as Kenny Pickett and company ground to a halt through two weeks of games that count.
A week after getting steamrolled by the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh offense was again stuck in the mud Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers compiled just nine first downs, 255 total yards, went 4 of 14 on third downs, turned the ball over twice and never threatened to get into the red zone.
Thanks to Alex Highsmith, T.J. Watt, and the Pittsburgh defense, the Steelers still came away with a 26-22 home win.
Head coach Mike Tomlin, however, acknowledged on Tuesday that the offense must be better to stack wins.
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“We have to get our mojo back,” Tomlin said. “We have to get that mojo that we had in the preseason where we’re playing fast and fluid with confidence individually and collectively. We’ve lost that, to be blunt, in the last several weeks.”
The entire operation has been a dud through two weeks. The ground game is 1-yard-and-a-cloud of dust. Pickett has struggled to make the right reads and has thrown too many wayward passes. And once again, Matt Canada’s play-calling has been questionable, to put it nicely.
Despite the issues, Tomlin remains confident in the club’s process.
“We’re not going to have knee-jerk reactions in terms of trying to make wholesale changes in an effort to change that outcome, but we do acknowledge two is a pattern,” he said. “We’ve had two outings that are not up to snuff in that regard. It has our attention as we’re preparing for the next one. We’re all in this thing together — we’re not assigning blame for anyone. Obviously, it starts with coaching — we’ve got to coach better.”
The Steelers had 55 rushing yards on 21 carries in Week 2. Their 96 rushing yards through two games are the second-fewest in the NFL — just the fourth time in franchise history with fewer than 100 rushing yards through two games.
On Monday, Pickett was 15-of-30 passing for 222 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a 71.8 passer rating, his first win as starting QB with a passer rating under 75.0 (was 0-5 prior).
The Steelers did not have a red-zone possession in Week 2 (1 of 2 in Week 1). The last team to not have a red-zone possession and win the game was the Denver Broncos in Week 9, 2019, also against the Browns.
The second half was particularly painful for Pittsburgh fans to watch. After an opening drive field goal, the Steelers punted their next four drives while picking up three total first downs. In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh generated -7 yards of total offense.
During the game, Steel City fans displayed their frustration with the OC raining down “Fire Canada” chants.
“I appreciate their passion,” Tomlin said of the chorus. “I share their passion. We all do. We love our fans. They inspire us, they challenge us; it’s an awesome relationship. We don’t run from challenges — we run to challenges. This is the sports entertainment business. It is our job to win and thus entertain them, and so we don’t begrudge them for that. We want them to be fat and sassy and spoiled. It is our job.”
Entering his third season as the Steelers offensive coordinator, Canada has led an anemic offense which often consists of head-scratching calls — like Monday night’s fourth-quarter third-down QB run while trying to milk the clock.
While he appreciates the fan’s passion, Tomlin doesn’t harbor the same apprehensions regarding the offensive approach.
“I don’t share their concern because of my perspective,” he said. “I’m a part of the process. When you’re a part of the process, it’s less troublesome to you.”
Regardless of who is part of the process, the Steelers offense must be better moving forward. It can’t rely on the defense to bail them out every week.
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