The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is MIA. And Mike Tomlin knows they lack an identity.
“We’re not even in personality mode,” he told the media in a brief Q&A late last week. “We just need to do what’s required to move the chains, to ring up the scoreboard, to score one more point than our opponent in an effort to win football games”.
And that’s true enough. No one in that locker room should care about how the Steelers win. But if Pittsburgh wants to climb the mountain and get back into the AFC North race, they’re going to need to figure out who they are. Unless you’re just rich with talent, and this current offensive group certainly isn’t, it’s hard to go on a winning streak by throwing gameplans at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Let’s be at least a little fair to Randy Fichtner. He’s had to adjust on the fly. Losing his franchise quarterback. Then losing his backup quarterback and turning to a UDFA rookie. These first six games have been about surviving. No time to reset, no chance to catch your breath. Get through the week, hope something goes well on Sunday, then do it again.
The result is an offense that’s been as bland as your office coworker who can only come up with “it’s getting pretty cold outside, isn’t it?” as elevator small talk.
That dullness is fine for your typical 9-5. Not in the NFL. For Pittsburgh, that’s gotta change starting this week.
No one is expecting this offense to become as potent as it’s been in the past. Nor transform itself into the strength of the team. The good news is that with how well the defense has progressed, the offense doesn’t have to get back to that level. But they must become more dynamic, more efficient, and create more opportunities for themselves. Mason Rudolph admitted as much yesterday.
“I’m always an aggressive guy,” he said via the team website. “I want to take the ball down the field, push the ball down the field, take shots…yes, we need to open up the offense a little bit.”
This isn’t just about going for the home run. It’s about attacking the middle of the field, converting on third down, finishing in the red zone. Not being as fearful of your quarterback, openly admitting to hiding and limiting him, an idea that may work well on a specific day but isn’t sustainable over half a season.
It doesn’t much matter what their identity is. And even if they find it, there will be low moments. It’s a young quarterback, young group of skill players, and they’ll be riding an uncomfortable roller coaster the rest of 2019. But the bye week is the first opportunity for Fichtner and this offense to take a step back, reset, reevaluate, and start charting a course for a Rudolph-led team.
Until this offense grabs a map and figures out where they want to go and how they’re going to get there, they’ll be driving in circles until they’re eliminated from the playoffs.