Hines Ward knows a thing or two about offenses working and offenses sputtering in Pittsburgh. For 14 seasons, Ward epitomized what playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers is all about. Heart, emotion, grit, smarts, ferocity and work ethic were all characteristics Ward displayed that are synonymous with proudly representing the historic franchise.
The Steelers have a new quarterback and more new receivers than returning. The offense won’t come out of the gate lighting up the scoreboard or stat lines. But that’s no excuse for a 29th-ranked offense and 25th in third-down conversion percentage (33.3). The Steelers were especially poor in the Sept. 22 loss to the Cleveland Browns, having converted just one of nine third downs.
Pittsburgh is dead last in time of possession, a key win/loss stat, at 24:15. For comparison, the team’s average time of possession in 2021 was 29:20 — over five minutes more than this season.
In no way should Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin be “encouraged” by what he’s seeing.
While many have blamed coordinator Matt Canada and the line for the Steelers’ offensive woes, Ward points his finger in a surprising direction: The players.
Hines Ward’s Take on Steelers Offense
Hines Ward says the players, not just the coaches, need to hold themselves more accountable for issues on offense.
“I’ve never been a component of scheme,” Hines Ward said on the North Shore Drive podcast. “I always think that players win games. I look at it, and before I start attacking the scheme of it, I look myself in the mirror and say, ‘Did I do everything possible what I had to do’ before I start critiquing someone else. And if I can’t answer that question well, if I’m not out there catching balls, every ball that’s thrown to me and I had some drops, then you’re just a part of the situation as well.”
“When you hear things and you say, ‘Well, it’s a struggling offense,’ it still comes down to execution,” said Ward. “It’s a collaboration of everybody. It’s not just the offense or Matt Canada’s scheme.”
Ward looks at the situation from a receiver’s perspective; call it a force of habit. Matt Canada can draw up plays — good or bad — but it’s up to the players to execute those plays. The quarterback has to throw catchable passes, and the receivers must make the catches.
Steelers’ Offense is Not up to Snuff
The execution angle Hines Ward speaks of is where the Pittsburgh Steelers are lacking. According to Pro Football Reference, the offense has 62 receptions on 101 targets for a catch percentage of 61.4. The receiving corps has 569 yards for a 189 yards per game average and two touchdowns. Their opponents have 75 receptions for 756 yards (252 yards per game average) and five touchdowns.
The ground game also isn’t getting it done. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren have 180 yards between them and one score.
Matt Canada told Steelers media this week that his offense had a “great” team meeting on Monday, Sept. 26.
“I feel really good that we’ve made the corrections that we need to make,” he said. “But until we see it on Sundays, it doesn’t matter, and I certainly appreciate that point.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers had 10 days off — what Mike Tomlin refers to as a “mini bye” week –between Weeks 3 and 4. It’s the longest span outside of their actual 14-day Week 9 bye. This would be the time to make the adjustments necessary to begin turning things around offensively. It’ll be too late to salvage the season if they can’t make it work soon.