The Pittsburgh Steelers emerged victorious in the season opener thanks to a convergence of all three phases of the game—even though the defense shouldered the biggest load from the start to finish. While the special teams sent the game into overtime and then won it, the offense did have to step up in its moments, even if there is still much work to be done, as defensive captain Cameron Heyward acknowledged during the latest episode of his Not Just Football podcast.
“Did they have their best game? No. But they’re a work in progress”, he said. “Our offense has just got to keep growing. Coach [Mike Tomlin] always says ‘There’s a lot of meat on that bone’. There’s a lot we can take from this and grow from it”.
It was the first time with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback coming in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. It also marked the Steelers debuts of offensive linemen Mason Cole and James Daniels, and for offensive line coach Pat Meyer, as well.
It is understandable that there are plenty of rough edges that still need sanding. But Heyward believes that that will come in time, and he already sees them making plays with their talented skill positions—they just need to come more often.
“Diontae Johnson’s catch was spectacular”, he said. “Chase Claypool getting out on the edge on some of those jet sweeps. We just needed more of that and to give our team more and continue moving the sticks and having those plays”.
Johnson made a fantastic one-handed leaping grab in overtime that could have potentially helped set up the game-winning field goal, only for Chris Boswell to miss. Claypool was effective on several jet-sweep runs and actually ended up leading the team in rushing.
“The more opportunities they get, the better they’re gonna get because of it, but we just need to keep capitalizing”, Heyward added. “One thing that really sticks out though, that our offensive line did a really good job is, there was only one sack we gave up, and against that front…I thought was pretty big”.
It’s true that the offensive line had more success in pass protection than in run blocking, but nobody should be comfortable with where that unit is in any phase at the moment, as it remains very clearly, as Heyward describes, “a work in progress”.
A growing offense was inevitable given the changes over the course of the past year. The key will be finding ways to continue to win while the unit develops into something potentially a bit more formidable and which is better equipped to more regularly carry its share of the burden. Until they get there, however, it will be up to Heyward and his group to stay on top of things.