Art Rooney II Doesn’t Sugarcoat It: ‘I Think We Need To Improve The Passing Game For Sure’

Pittsburgh Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II spoke to a few select reporters Thursday afternoon, giving his perspective about the 2022 season and hit on several key questions asked by reporters including the retention of OC Matt Canada for another season, the progress of QB Kenny Pickett, and his positive outlook on how the team finished 7-2 down in the second half of the season, avoiding HC Mike Tomlin’s first losing season while nearly sneaking into the playoff hunt.

Rooney was also asked if he prefers to have a run-heavy offense when most teams are opening things up and throwing the football in attempt to score a lot of points. Rooney responded to the question that he wants to have a more balanced offense in the future and recognizes that the passing game must improve in order to make that happen.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to have an effective passing game too,” Rooney said on 93.7 The Fan. “I think the best teams can do both and so, being a team that’s tough to defend means you can do a lot of things, right? And so, that’s… I think what we’re looking for is to be balanced. And so, I think we need to improve on the passing game for sure. We need to see more yards after catch from our receivers. Obviously, we need to be better in the red zone. So definitely some places we need to improve on to score more points is the bottom line.”

To put it bluntly, the Pittsburgh Steelers passing game wasn’t good in 2022. The team threw for 3,411 yards on the season, ranking 24th in the league while ranking 16th in the league in pass attempts (571). They were dead-last in the league in TD passes (12) while also ranking dead-last in the league in YAC average.

The complaint throughout the season was a lack of splash plays from Pittsburgh’s passing game as the offense struggled to get extra yards after the catch or breakaway from coverage for big plays down the field. Part of this blame can be put on OC Matt Canada for running concept that don’t lead to many opportunities for YAC (IE Diontae Johnson’s route tree), but part of the blame falls on the personnel too. Johnson constantly got criticized for running backwards throughout the season and dropping several promising targets while George Pickens didn’t do a great job generating YAC either. Kenny Pickett showed improvement, but still needs to do a better job leading his receivers to allow them to pick up additional yards after the completion.

While many will point to cornerback or defensive line as key areas to improve before next season, the passing game is a glaring hole that needs to be fixed to make this offense more balanced as respected by opposing defenses on a weekly basis. This could be done by improving protection upfront to give Pickett more time to throw. However, adding more speed and playmaking ability to the WR core should also be a focus of this team going forward as it appears Rooney states above. While Pittsburgh will be getting Calvin Austin III back next season after missing 2022, don’t be shocked if this team prioritizes WR somewhere within the first few rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft in attempt to add a playmaker.

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