Four weeks, four rather rough showings overall from the Pittsburgh Steelers offensively as the black and gold currently sit at 1-3 on the year a quarter into the season for the second straight year under head coach Mike Tomlin.
That 1-3 start can be attributed to an offense that remains rather stagnant and near the bottom of the league in nearly every category, as well as the league’s highest paid defense that — while missing star T.J. Watt — can’t seem to get stops late in the season. Still, a lot of the attention and focus is on the offense, which underwent significant changes in the offseason following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
With veteran Mitch Trubisky signed in free agency, an offensive line rebuilt with the additions of Mason Cole and James Daniels, and the drafting of quarterback Kenny Pickett and wide receiver George Pickens, things were supposed to be fixed under second-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
That hasn’t happened yet as the Steelers remain near the bottom of the league in a lot of offensive statistics, and currently rank 27th overall in the latest offensive unit rankings from Pro Football Focus’ Marcus Mosher Wednesday morning.
Through four weeks, Pittsburgh sits 30th in Expected Points Added per Play (-0.138), and 30th in EPA/Pass (-0.138). However, the Steelers do rank fourth in the NFL in EPA/Rush (0.020), which is a positive sign. It’s still an offense overall that remains near the bottom of the league across the board.
Maybe the switch to Pickett as the starting quarterback changes that.
“It was time for the Steelers to make a change on offense with Mitchell Trubisky struggling again in Week 4. Pittsburgh scored just six points in the first half, three of which were gifted on the final play of the first half,” Mosher writes regarding the Steelers offense in the position rankings Wednesday. “Rookie Kenny Pickett provided a spark against the Jets, but he will need to elevate this group over the next several weeks. Pittsburgh is currently averaging 18.5 points per game, and that is even a bit misleading considering the defense has scored points itself.
“While Pickett threw three interceptions in relief, none were deemed turnover-worthy plays, and he earned a 71.6 passing grade for his efforts. Prior to that, Trubisky averaged just 5.6 passing yards per attempt through the first four games, which was the worst in the NFL,” Mosher added. “It’s time to let Pickett run the team with the hope that he pushes the ball down the field more often.”
The switch to Pickett provided a spark for the Steelers, and to hear head coach Mike Tomlin talk about Pickett becoming the starting quarterback on Tuesday, the expectation is that the spark provided carries over into the games ahead, much like it did when Pickett saw the field in the preseason.
Plays have been there for the Steelers to take shots on, it was jus the fact that Trubisky wasn’t taking them and wasn’t seeing the field well enough. Once Pickett came into the game, he did throw three interceptions (two bounced off of receivers hands, one a game-ending Hail Mary), but there was a different feel to the Steelers offense.
Will that continue? That remains to be seen. But for an offense stuck in the mud, a change was needed. There’s too much talent offensively to continue trotting Trubisky out there. Expecting Pickett to be the savior is a major stretch, but there’s a lot to be excited about, which is a bit surprised to say about an offense that is in the bottom quarter of the league.