The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is filled with first- and second-round picks throughout the quarterback and skill positions. You have Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, and Eric Ebron. That’s talent, and pedigree. It’s not getting the job done right now. But it can, if they can stick together, says Freiermuth, their rookie tight end.
“I think the confidence just comes from [the knowledge that] we have all the talent in the world on offense, and especially defense as well”, he said after yesterday’s game, via transcript, in which he scored his first NFL touchdown. “We’ve just got to continue to be confident in ourselves, not get down on each other, and not break away as a team. We’ve got to come together and build each other up”.
The Steelers ran a season-high 77 offensive plays, though that was partly because their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, had more efficient drives. When the Steelers weren’t being forced off the field within three plays, they were executing long, methodical, yet precarious drives, only one of which actually made it into the end zone.
As mentioned above, that one went to Freiermuth, who caught three of five passes on the day for 22 yards, with a long of 15. His touchdown came on 1st-and-goal from the four-yard line. He also had a three-yard reception in the middle of the second quarter that moved the sticks on 3rd-and-2.
Fellow rookie Harris totaled nearly 150 yards from scrimmage for the game, including 102 receiving on 14 receptions, the most ever in a single game for a Steelers running back. Claypool also caught nine passes for 96 yards, including a 29-yarder for the one deep completion from Roethlisberger. None of it, though, was enough.
“We’ve got a lot of talent at receiver, tight end, O-line, and quarterback, and so forth”, Freiermuth said after the game. “We’ve just got to continue to stick together and find ways to exploit the defense and make explosive plays”.
This offense, of course, has not been very explosive. And they are having immense difficulty even sustaining drive. This game was really the first in which they were able to get the ball moving play after play on one possession, and that was like pulling teeth.
The reality is that the proposed talent level on this offense is not matching what is happening on the field. They are not getting the sort of performances that the pedigree would suggest. Will that improve as they begin to gel as a group, under a new offense? They had better hope so, because otherwise this is going to be a long season, after which many will be replaced.