It was a common sight for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cincinnati Bengals: flags pre-snap, flags post-snap wiping out good gains, and general sloppiness leading to the Steelers playing from behind the sticks offensively in a 24-10 loss at home.
Following a strong first week on the road in Buffalo in which the Steelers generally avoided the self-inflicted mistakes and stayed ahead of the chains throughout the game, the offense has taken a significant step back in that regard ahead of the Week 4 matchup on the road in Green Bay.
The key to getting back on track offensively — aside from better pass blocking, run blocking, catching, running and accuracy on throws — according to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, is to improve upon the self-inflicted mistakes and not shoot yourselves in the foot on drives.
Canada, speaking with reporters Wednesday during his media availability, said he’s “hopeful” the Steelers have improved in that regard.
“We’ve got to settle down and not do that to ourselves,” Canada said to reporters, according to the official transcript. “You can address it, and we can talk about it, and we know it. They’re all professionals. They understand they can’t do that. There are very key plays that are frustrating for everybody because if you have a good gain that comes back with a penalty or what have you, that’s not good. So we’ve certainly addressed it and we’re hopeful that we’ve improved upon it and we understand it.”
Against the Bengals in Week 3, those self-inflicted mistakes were present early and often, showing a sign of just how difficult of a day it was going to be for the black and gold offensively.
For clarity’s sake, here’s the self-inflicted penalties on offense from the Week 3 loss:
2nd & 6 at PIT 29
(14:20 – 1st) N.Harris right tackle to PIT 30 for 1 yard (L.Wilson; G.Pratt). PENALTY on PIT-C.Okorafor, Illegal Formation, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 29 – No Play.
1st & 10 at PIT 20
(10:48 – 1st) N.Harris left end to PIT 30 for 10 yards (V.Bell, S.Hubbard). PENALTY on PIT-K.Green, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 20 – No Play.
2nd & 17 at PIT 13
(9:45 – 1st) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to N.Harris pushed ob at PIT 25 for 12 yards (A.Davis-Gaither). PENALTY on PIT-C.Claypool, Offensive Pass Interference, 6 yards, enforced at PIT 13 – No Play.
3rd & 8 at PIT 46
(6:51 – 1st) (Shotgun) PENALTY on PIT-T.Turner, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 46 – No Play.
1st & 10 at PIT 36
(5:56 – 2nd) (Shotgun) N.Harris left guard to PIT 39 for 3 yards (J.Bates). PENALTY on PIT-K.Dotson, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at PIT 39.
3rd & 8 at PIT 6
(1:28 – 3rd) (Shotgun) PENALTY on PIT-C.Okorafor, False Start, 3 yards, enforced at PIT 6 – No Play.
1st & Goal at CIN 3
(10:41 – 4th) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to P.Freiermuth to CIN 4 for -1 yards (J.Bates). PENALTY on PIT-C.Claypool, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at CIN 3 – No Play.
In total, seven times the Steelers shot themselves in the foot against the Bengals offensively. Of those seven penalties, five came on first or second down, while three of the penalties occurred in the first five plays of the game for the Steelers.
That simply isn’t going to cut it, especially for an offense struggling to move the football in general. Committing holding penalties, false starts or even illegal formations is not going to help a stagnant offense kickstart itself, especially when it’s constantly playing behind the sticks.
If the Steelers want to get back on track on Sunday, they have to clean up these mistakes offensively, especially early in the game.