The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will connect on a least one deep pass (20-plus air yards) that gains 40 or more yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Explanation: According to our charting, the Steelers have just two 40-yard passing plays all season that have come from deep passing targets, defined by passes that travel at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The first was the 84-yard connection to Chase Claypool all the way back in week two. The second was against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 10 when Diontae Johnson caught a 46-yard pass that included 46 air yards.
The fact that they are going up against the Bengals helps. Their defense, and their secondary, is not good overall, even though they have some very legitimate talents, particularly Jessie Bates, who continues to show that he had first-round talent all along.
The fact that the Steelers have talked about actively working on the deep passing game this week is also encouraging. They know that it’s an issue and one that needs to be addressed. They also know that they haven’t had time to work on things because of the short week.
The other factor here is just the fact that it’s due to happen, and I like Chase Claypool to be on the receiving end of it. The rookie hasn’t been a big part of the offense in recent weeks, but they know they’ll need him out there. It’s time for another homerun ball.
The Steelers only have five plays of 40 yards or more all season, and two of them were runs. Aside from the other passes mentioned above, the fifth was the 50-yard James Washington catch-and-run from a couple of weeks ago.
Put simply, this is just something that the Steelers are not good at. According to Pro Football Focus, they have only completed 19 deep passes all season on 64 attempts, and as is obvious by what has already been said, the vast majority of them don’t pick up many yards after the catch. A lot have been at the sidelines and things of that nature.