Bill Cowher Sends Message to Mike Tomlin on Approach With Kenny Pickett

Getty Ex-Steelers HC Bill Cowher has advice for Mike Tomlin.

It’s the natural cycle: When things are great, everyone is happy. When things are at their worst, people are most vocal. And that’s definitely the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans and media have their take on what’s wrong and how to fix it.

Bill Cowher has had an outsider’s perspective since he retired from the Steelers in 2006. As an analyst on CBS’ “NFL Today,” takes on his former team tend to carry more weight.

“You’re transitioning into a new quarterback, okay, and right now I get worried about his confidence because I’ve seen this happen to other quarterbacks,” Cowher said after Pittsburgh’s loss to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

The Steelers drafted one franchise quarterback in Cowher’s 15-year career: Ben Roethlisberger. In 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie season, Pittsburgh’s defense was tops in the league — first in both points and yards allowed. He was asked to simply manage the game early in his career, made possible by a high-scoring defense, a Pro Bowl offensive line and a balanced offense with Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. The result? A 13-0 quarterback record for Roethlisberger. The Steelers didn’t lose their first game until Week 3 of his second season.

“Take the ball out of [Kenny Pickett‘s] hands,” Cowher urged Mike Tomlin on “NFL Today.” “Don’t ask him to do as much as you’re asking him to do.”

Unfortunately, the Steelers don’t appear to have that luxury. The brass will have to devise a plan for the second half of the 2022 season (and beyond), or Cowher believes it could have a lasting, negative effect on Pickett.

Cowher’s concern is that putting the offense entirely on the shoulders of Pickett will have an adverse effect on his future.

“It’s about a philosophy on offense that says, ‘Listen, what’s the best part of your team?’ It’s going to be your defensive side,” Cowher explained.

“That’s worn down after a period of time. There’s no margin for error there. You have to somehow shorten a game with that quarterback, and it goes back to running the ball. I’d put him back there under center. Don’t put him back there to get sacked six times [versus Eagles].”

“What’s in the best interest is to develop this quarterback, who’s your quarterback of the future, without destroying his confidence.”

Ben Roethlisberger’s Approach to Steelers Offense

Once a quarterback, always a quarterback.

Now retired just like his former coach Bill Cowher, Ben Roethlisberger would take the opposite approach to run the Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

Throw, throw and throw some more.

Not a surprise coming from a former quarterback.

“They took some shots … but to me, it felt like it was just too few and far between,” Roethlisberger said of the Steelers’ October 30 loss to the Eagles. “If I’m the coordinator, this is what I’m doing right now. You’ve got nothing to lose. … I’m throwing the ball deep on first, second and third down.”

Under Cowher, not much was asked of Roethlisberger during his rookie season. With Jerome Bettis and a top-ranked defense, he didn’t need to. According to Pro Football Reference, as a rookie, Roethlisberger’s season-high pass attempts were 28. With virtually no run game to depend on, Pickett has not thrown for fewer than 38 passing attempts as a starter. Pickett threw an astounding 52 passes versus the Buffalo Bills.

The offense is stuck in neutral until scheming improves and the rookie develops. The responsibility falls on the defense to score points — as we’ve seen they’re capable — or at least produce takeaways and give Kenny Pickett and company short fields to work with.

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