As the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense continues to struggle in the second year of offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s tenure, it’s hard not to think back to the high-flying passing attack the team had in the mid-2010s. Coached by former offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers routinely won high scoring games. When asked about the current state of the Steelers’ offense, Haley commented on the disparity between his and Canada’s offense.
“This may go against what people think and wanna see, they’re used to seeing a dynamic offense over the years,” Haley said when asked about the Steelers offense on 93.7 The Fan’s Cook and Joe Show. “I was fortunate to be there, you had a big time quarterback in Ben, you had some big time skill guys in Le’Veon [Bell], and Antonio [Brown], and Heath Miller, and a really good offensive line.”
To say that this goes against what Steelers fans want to see is an understatement. After two abysmal offensive performances in the team’s first two games, the frustration from 2021 carried on, and several starters on the offense vocalized their disdain with Canada’s play calling after the Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday.
As Haley mentions, the Steelers had an extraordinarily talented offense with receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell, an offensive line with several Pro Bowlers and a prime Ben Roethlisberger. Granted, the Steelers do not have anywhere near this talent with Mitchell Trubisky in his first season as quarterback for the team and a less experienced offensive line. However, the Steelers arguably have no shortage of talent at skill positions. From running back Najee Harris being picked in the first round in 2021 to rookie receiver George Pickens being picked in the second, much of their recent draft capital was invested in skill positions. Moreover, the offensive line is outperforming expectations to this point.
“I feel like the Steelers have to play a certain way to win games,” Haley continued. “Losing T.J. [Watt] was a big thing, but I didn’t have a doubt that Mike [Tomlin], [Brian] Flores, and Teryl Austin would have a plan. They did a very good job, and held the Patriots to a point count that should’ve given the Steelers a chance to win. They gotta play close to the vest, they gotta play good defense, don’t turn it over on offense.”
The conservative offense philosophy is one that the team began employing in 2019 after the injury to Roethlisberger, and have seemingly attempted to do so since. Albeit, it’s hard to argue that this is a completed failed philosophy, as the team made the playoffs in 2020 and 2021. However, the team did not make it far in the playoffs, and the stagnant and predictable offense is not one that will yield results.
Losing linebacker and reigning Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, deals a great hit to this philosophy, as the Steelers did not generate a significant pass rush in his Week 2 absence. The fact is, a football defense can only play so well if they are constantly on the field after the offense punts. While avoiding turnovers at all costs is not inherently a negative, it will only get this team so far. With upcoming opponents with high powered offenses such as the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, the Steelers will need to take chances to put up points.