Going into the bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-6, have the dead last scoring offense in the NFL, and are coming off a 35-13 routing against the Philedelphia Eagles. The team’s offensive unit has not surpassed 23 points, and is struggling all-around. When asked about the team’s offensive struggles, receiver Diontae Johnson made his frustration known in a post-game interview according to the team’s YouTube channel.
“We’ve just gotta play better,” Johnson said when asked what’s wrong with the passing game. “I mean, y’all obviously know what’s wrong. We’re just out there playing, trying to win. That’s all I can say at the end of the day.”
Indeed, the offense does need to play better. There is no shortage of numbers that highlight this statement, and the team has a 2-6 record to show for it. In stating the media knows what’s wrong, Johnson may be referring to a number of things. From a poor run game keeping the passing game one-dimensional to inconsistent quarterback play, the team’s passing attack is not what it once was.
“It’s frustrating” Johnson continued when asked if the team’s struggles are frustrating. “We’ve just gotta go back to the drawing board, try to find a plan, and try to figure out something to try to win. Just try to do something other than [what we’ve been doing]. Stuff may not be falling our way, but at the end of the day we just gotta keep playing.”
Week after week, it appears that the post-game press conferences go about the same in terms of questions regarding the team’s offense. The offensive philosophy and play-calling looks about the same, and anything in the way of adjustments is evidently not working. The offensive script in the past several games is eerily similar for this team. That is, the offense seems to consistently put together one well-scripted drive early in the game, and not accomplish much outside of that. We saw that against the Eagles, as the team scored a touchdown in its second drive, and did not smell the end zone afterwards.
For Johnson, this is likely not the production the team had anticipated when signing him to a two-year extension this past offseason. Despite ranking third in the NFL for targets with 76, he has not had a 100-yard game this season. While Johnson’s struggles with drops are noteworthy, he only has two on the year, indicating a larger underlying problem for his lack of production.
Despite having the most receptions and targets on the team by a considerable margin, Johnson has the lowest YAC total among the team’s receivers with 43. Additionally, his average yards per catch is also the lowest among the team’s receivers, despite not having the lowest average depth of target.
It may be a stretch to suggest that Johnson regressed, but the numbers after eight games are not promising. In a microcosm, Johnson’s struggles speak for the rest of the offense, which defines the term underwhelming. The team will have a bye week to regroup and perhaps implement the much-needed changes that these post-game interviews mention.