Let’s just say the post-Ben Roethlisberger era isn’t going well for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s only two weeks into the NFL season, and already the team is urged to make a change.
The Steelers’ offense, led by Mitch Trubisky, has been anemic and uninspired through the season’s first games. 362 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception. You’d think that was a stat line from one game because it typically would be. Instead, those are Trubisky’s numbers through nine quarters.
There’s no question that Pittsburgh will be Pickett’s team in the future. But just how near is that future?
Because Pickett was drafted with Pittsburgh’s first pick and because Pickett played well in the preseason, patience is already running thin with the Steelers fan base. There are two groups: Those who want immediate change and those who are willing to see the situation play out.
NFL insider Peter King believes the Steelers should be readying to make that change.
“I think there will be a chorus of ‘it’s way too early for that,’ and I understand that sentiment,” King wrote in his Sept. 19 Football Morning in America column.
“But is Kenny Pickett warming up in the bullpen yet? The Trubisky-led offense has put up 30 points in nine offensive quarters (almost nine; there was an OT last week in Cincinnati), and 255 offensive yards per game won’t cut it long-term.”
Mike Tomlin Has No Plans for a Change at Quarterback
If you ask Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, a quarterback change won’t be coming soon. Especially this early in the season. Especially with his team needing to turn around and travel to Cleveland for Thursday Night Football.
“I don’t know if significant changes are what’s required,” Tomlin said in a Sept. 19 press conference.
As quick as the NFL season is, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Tomlin said the Steelers are going to exercise patience in that regard.
“I’m experienced enough to see the big picture that we are still very much in development,” he said. “I’m going to exercise appropriate patience and continue to teach and ask the guys to continue to learn in an effort to continue to push this train down the track and get better.”
Steelers Fans Boo Mitch Trubisky
That chorus made itself pretty clear at Acrisure Stadium on Sept. 18. In the third quarter of the New England Patriots matchup, boos rained down on Mitch Trubisky.
Certainly, the boo-birds and chants by Steelers fans to bring Kenny Pickett in can’t be helping Trubisky with confidence.
But Trubisky isn’t letting it get to him.
“It is what it is. You just continue to block it out and play football,” Trubisky said in a post-game press conference.
While fans might not be, the Steelers locker room is behind their starting quarterback. “There is no doubt in Mitch in this room,” center Mason Cole said via TribLive’s Chris Adamski. “Fans are gonna do what they do but on this locker room no one is doubting Mitch.”
Who’s to blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive woes? Mitch Trubisky? Sure, maybe some of the onus could fall on him.
When speaking with the press following the Sept. 18 game, Trubisky clarified what needs to happen to create a long-ball pass game.
“Call concepts to get receivers there. When the coverage dictates that, get them the ball within that.
“I saw a lot of post high, backers sitting in the middle, safety in the middle of the field. We like our outside matchups. We’ve got really good receivers. We’ve got really good talent across the board. We’d like to attack all areas of the field and get the ball to our playmakers. So, we could do a little bit better at everything for sure.”
What Trubisky would like and what’s happening aren’t the same. That blame would seem to fall on offensive coordinator Matt Canada because the issues aren’t just with the passing game. Continuing from the 2021 season, the run game has stalled. Strike that — stalling would indicate something was once operating. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren haven’t put together any semblance of a ground game. Like the lack of production through the air, Harris, Warren, and even Chase Claypool have combined for 166 yards on 44 attempts (3.8 yards per carry) and no touchdowns.
The non-existent run game renders the Steelers one-dimensional. Or would it be non-dimensional? Opponents know Pittsburgh doesn’t have success running the ball. They don’t have to defend the run; the Steelers’ offensive line does it to themselves. So, of course, the defense will play the pass.
When the run game gets going, it opens up plays in the pass game. Until that happens (and it might not), each week will be a broken record for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It is early. It will take the Steelers time to find their identity, especially given the sweeping changes on offense. The NFL season is long, but it’s not that long. How patient is too patient?