Struggling to score points offensively for the second straight week, along with some botched decisions from a coaching standpoint caused the Pittsburgh Steelers, following a 17-14 frustrating loss to the New England Patriots in the home opener at Acrisure Stadium, to fall four spots back outside the top 20 in the latest power rankings from NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus Tuesday morning.
Riding high after a thrilling road win to open the season against the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers came crashing back down to earth in Week 2 as the offense couldn’t do much of anything against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, while the defense wasn’t able to generate pressure and turnovers like they did in Week 1.
When the margin for error is so thin due to issues offensively, it’s no surprise that a special teams gaffe ended up being the difference in the loss, causing the Steelers to fall four spots to No. 23 overall in Hanzus’ power rankings.
“You had a feeling points would come at a premium for the Steelers this season, and that’s how it looks so far. Pittsburgh’s offense was held under 300 yards for the second consecutive week, and a Gunner Olszewski special teams miscue proved to be the difference in a 17-14 loss to the Patriots,” Hanzus writes for NFL.com in his Week 3 power rankings. “Olszewski’s muffed punt set the Patriots up deep in Steelers territory and led to the decisive touchdown. It’s the type of mistake this Pittsburgh team — with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback and T.J. Watt on injured reserve — cannot overcome. Kenny Pickett: Your time is near, young man.”
While Kenny Pickett’s time under center isn’t quite as near as Hanzus alludes to here, he’s spot-on with the special teams mistake being the type of thing this current version of the Steelers simply can’t overcome. The Steelers are built to be a ball-possession offense that doesn’t turn it over, plays the field position game and leans heavily on a star-studded defense to win low-scoring games.
It’s no surprise that the muffed punt on special teams, coupled with a dropped interception by Cameron Sutton two plays prior, and the fact that the Steelers had just 10 guys on the field for the punt, resulted in a game-altering outcome. The margin for error is so thin with the offense unable to generate points, let alone yards at this point.
How it improves is anyone’s guess, but the calls for Pickett to take over are going to grow louder and louder the more the offense struggles in the Steel City.