Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Game 9 – New Orleans Saints
1. Identity Forming in 3, 2…– The offense has been looking for an identity the entire season. They may finally be becoming the offense that they wanted to be all along. Run the ball, control the clock and play good defense. The run game has banged out 361 yards over the last two games. They have held the ball for 36.5 minutes per game over the last two. The defense gives up yards but not a lot of points. The remaining factor is the most important. Then need to score more points.
2. Explosive But Not Exploding – Yet another factor that has been lacking has been the explosive play. I mean going into this game each of the tight ends had a longer reception than Diontae Johnson. Big plays have been hard to come by. This game gave a possible glimpse of what the second half can be. Six total explosive plays. Four of those on the ground. These are not scoring plays yet but they are a boost to the offense.
3. The Slant Is In – We have been begging for them for eight weeks. I guess they wanted to wait until the bye week to add it to the offense. They ran slant routes. They threw the ball to slant routes. And you’ll never guess what happened? They worked! First one resulted in a first down. The second in a defensive pass interference call. The third became another first down. Who would have thought this staple of every offense in football would be effective? We did. It’s about time.
4. Let Me Hear Your Body Talk – Diontae Johnson has shown some frustration. You can see it when he is open and he is thrown an uncatchable ball. You see his shoulders drop as if to say, “C’mon Rook. Give me a chance.” It has to be tough for the veteran receiver, whose numbers are down, to stay within himself. When I saw him run backwards (again) and take away a first down I was befuddled. Why do that? Well, because he’s trying to make a play to help the offense. But maybe he’s trying to do too much when he does get the ball.
5. Canadian Default – If you Google those words it says jet sweep. Maybe. It is a favorite play of Matt Canada in this offense. It’s gotten to the point that I feel when he doesn’t know what to call; he defaults to the jet sweep. Now they have had some success with it but I feel they run it too often. I’m here to make a plea that if he must run that play, can he have it in a formation where it can be blocked properly. Having two blockers to handle four defenders on the outside isn’t going to cut it.
6. Guns Up – Per our charting, the offense had run a total of nine plays out of the pistol formation. That is the quarterback in shotgun with the running back lined up behind him. Just one of those plays was with Kenny Pickett in the game. This week they either started in or motioned into pistol formation at least seven times. I’m curious to see what the cumulative outcome of those plays was. Two of those were the direct snaps to Najee Harris that were not so good. And why now? They ran it four times Week One. Just once from Week Five until now.
7. The Wright Choice? – Will the real Matthew Wright please stand up? This is a kid who made 59 yard field goal earlier this year. In this game it looked like it was his first time kicking. Ever. His kickoffs were consistently short. When it came to field goals that was an adventure. His second kick his short-legged it, like a check swing. He didn’t follow through and hooked it to the left. His third attempt he was late starting into his movement to the ball after the snap and the ball was nearly blocked. The final field goal it looked like he was trying to crush it and completely miss hit the ball. I wonder how Nick Sciba felt watching this display.
8. Line Up? – It looked like there was improvement from the offensive line. The running game showed some life and the pass blocking was pretty good as well. There were several scrambles that Pickett had plenty of time in the pocket. This group has had their struggles but has been healthy all year. If they are finally finding their groove that bodes well for the offense. Again, they need to put the points on the board. They could have easily had another 14 points on the board.
9. 15 Yards for That? – Did yinz know that a punt interference penalty was 15 yards? I feel like that is a wee bit excessive, no? It was a tough situation for James Pierre who is racing downfield while the returner had to come up toward him on a short kick. Pierre’s right foot clipped that of the returner. Doesn’t that feel like a five yard penalty? Maybe if somebody blows up the return man 15 yards makes sense. Seems a bit excessive for a toe tap.
10. Get Him in Space – Jaylen Warren has continued to surprise on every step of his journey. He caught the eye of many in camp and has forced the team to get him more opportunities. They need, not should, need to get him the ball more in the passing game. You saw what he did on his three receptions. He can make people miss, can break through tackles and has the burst to create yards after the catch. That is something severely lacking in this offense. He now has 15 catches on 17 targets for 128 yards. That’s 8.5 yards per catch compared to Harris’ 4.7 on 24 receptions.