While it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers turned the offense over to the run game in the second half of the season a year ago, they certainly placed a greater emphasis on it, and to positive results. Many factors account for the timing and the subsequent success, but it stands to reason that they will want to expand upon the more physical brand of football they were beginning to establish in the latter part of the year.
Indeed, they’ve been leaving a breadcrumb trail throughout the offseason, and the 2023 NFL Draft did nothing to dispel those notions. They just got a lot more physical and formidable over the past two days with the big, imposing Broderick Jones at offensive tackle and Darnell Washington at tight end.
“You’re talking about on offense two guys that block and are physical”, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said Friday, via the team’s website, while addressing reporters after the Washington selection. “That’s what we’re trying to do. I think Coach [Mike] Tomlin said it really clear, there’s no secret of what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to play football”.
Now, are the Steelers going to become a ‘run-first’ team all of a sudden, just a year after using a first-round pick on a quarterback? Of course not. They’re going to let Kenny Pickett do as much as he can. But they’re going to do their best to support him, establishing a physical identity that will inevitably include a significant run-game component.
That should help particularly in the red zone, which is by far the biggest area in which Pickett struggled as a rookie. They became one of the best offenses in the league on third and fourth down and in extending drives generally, but they need to convert a higher percentage of their drives into touchdowns when all is said and done. And it’s all by design, of course.
“Omar [Khan] and those guys did a great job down there, and Coach Tomlin, Mr. [Art] Rooney [II], picking who they pick”, Canada said about the additions of Jones and Washington in helping them to establish this presence on offense moving forward. “We’re going to do the best we can with the players we get”.
They got some good players, so one would hope that the best they can do will take a big step forward from the best they seemed to be able to do last year. Aside from the red zone, another area that could benefit is the screen game with the abilities of these new athletes to get out in space and throw their weight around.