The Pittsburgh Steelers have been without two starters on offense over the course of the past two games in running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey, both of whom have spent that time on the team’s Reserve/Covid-19 List after testing positive for the coronavirus.
They have also struggled significantly on offense, putting up just 17 points on the board in each of their past two games, which finally resulted in their first loss of the season yesterday evening against the Washington Football Team. They struggled in particular in short-yardage situations on possession downs and on the goal line.
Head coach Mike Tomlin is not interested in excuses for such failures. In fact, he is quite annoyed by the offense’s lack of fluidity regardless of personnel. Earlier today during his pre-game press conference, he used strong language to air his frustrations over the unit’s failures to continuing functioning with the next man up.
“We just have to become a more solid group. The quality of our performance can’t depend on the presence of a Maurkice Pouncey or a James Conner or a Vance McDonald and guys like that”, he told reporters earlier today. “We’ve lost fluidity since we missed some of those guys. To be quite honest with you, that pisses me off because we have to be the type of group that endures regardless of who is available”.
Outside of the Steelers’ first touchdown drive yesterday, during which they converted on third down four times and actually got into the end zone twice—Ben Roethlisberger’s first touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson was negated by penalty—the offense was unable to move the ball consistently down the field and capitalize on situational football successes.
The good news is that, by and large, Pittsburgh has been a pretty good team situationally during the year. Prior to the last couple of games they were in the top 10 both in the red zone and on third down. Even though it’s a couple of games now, this is still the aberration rather than the norm. It just needs to be addressed.
It is likely that the Steelers will get both Conner and Pouncey back by the time they head off on the road to face the Buffalo Bills, who statistically have a rather average defense, but also a dangerous offense. Pittsburgh was able to count on putting up at least 24 points on the board in each of their first 10 games. They need to get back to that again if they want to maintain their position in the AFC.