While it might not be the word you would personally choose to use, I’m sure you would ultimately agree that “disappointing” would accurately describe the state of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, not just currently, but throughout the season. That is, at least, the term chosen by Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner this week when prompted to assess his undeniably underperforming group.
“Disappointing, obviously. I think everyone in the offensive group would feel disappointed”, Fichtner told reporters on Thursday, via a transcript provided by the team’s media department. “You know, we’ve had some opportunities and we haven’t completed some passes here. We haven’t finished a run here. Disappointing would be the biggest word, but not enough to detour us from our work we’ve been doing today and yesterday, and I really like where we’re at, and trying to move forward”.
The Steelers have scored 200 points this year—with three touchdowns coming from the defense—which ranks 24th in the NFL. Their 2835 total yards of offense ranks 28th. This theme continues throughout pretty much every offensive category you would want to look at. Generally, they rank in the bottom third in everything.
So what can they do about it? Not much. They’re not going to get Ben Roethlisberger back under center any time soon. I’m pretty confident that they are not about to sign Antonio Brown. All they can do is grin and bear it and hope that the eventual return from injury from JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, plus Benny Snell coming back, can provide some type of spark that hasn’t existed almost all year.
Coincidentally, it all happens to have come parallel to the sudden resurgence of the defense. While they have been far from flawless, mind you, the contributions of Steven Nelson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Devin Bush, and the rise in play of guys like T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, have put the unit on another level, which has allowed them to remain competitive in even most of their losses, and has certainly helped them win a few games.
Yes, a lot of the problems with the offense do go back to Mason Rudolph, even though those who keep calling for him to be benched are misguided. This is his season, growing pains and all, something Fichtner also acknowledged.
“Like I said, there’s going to be growing pains every week, and there has been”, he said. “Maybe different defenses. Maybe just different situations, different play calls. You know, those types of things. We’ve just got to grow from them, and I believe he is”.
Fichtner was being championed last year in helping the Steelers offense become one of the best red-zone units in the NFL in the past couple of decades, and faring rather well in most situational football. They have been the exact opposite of that this year. A lot of that is on personnel, but the man calling the plays has to do better, too.