Two games in to the 2022 season and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense remains a work-in-progress.
“I’m sure they’re happy they are on the road again,” said former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in an interview with Ron Cook and Joe Starkey on 93.7 FM The Fan in Pittsburgh, knowing that Pittsburgh’s next game is at Cleveland, where starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky won’t have to hear the “KEN-NY” chants he heard during last Sunday’s home loss to the New England Patriots.
While Haley was a little hesitant to directly assign blame for the fact that the Steelers have only scored two touchdowns on offense, his greatest “area of concern” surrounds the team’s receivers.
“There’s talent there,” began Haley, referring to the team’s receiving corps. “When I watch things I don’t always see what I want to see in terms of how they are doing it — the precision…. And to me, if there’s one thing that stands out it’s just not being on the same page with the quarterback and receivers and that has to get better,” he added. “If a quarterback doesn’t have confidence that a guy is going to be where he is supposed to be when he is supposed to be there, then the quarterback is going to take the blame.”
That’s not an ideal situation for Trubisky, who is trying to hold off rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett from taking over as the team’s starter.
“I think (Trubisky) has a lot of promise, but he needs some help. He’s not going to be a guy that goes out there and carries the team,” said Haley.
And if Pro Football Focus’ grades are any indication, Trubisky isn’t getting a lot of support from his receiving threats. While Diontae Johnson has a stellar 79.9 grade, starting tight end Pat Freiermuth has a mere 60.4, with Chase Claypool given a 59.1 and rookie George Pickens a lowly 53.7.
Todd Haley: Issues With Audibling ‘Not Something You Want to Hear’
There’s also some question about how much flexibility Trubisky has in terms of changing plays at the line of scrimmage.
“We’re still figuring out when is a good time for me to audible, and if within each play I have the option to do so,” said Trubisky during a media session earlier this week.
“Audibling in the NFL is very, very critical,” said Haley, calling questions about audibles “not something you want to hear.”
The former Steelers coordinator (2012-17) — who recently finished his first season as head coach of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits — would also like to see Trubisky use his athleticism to get more involved in the run game, at least until offensive coordinator Matt Canada figures out a way to get the team’s receivers more involved in the offense.
Haley: Steelers ‘Have to Play a Certain Way to Win Games’
Meanwhile, Haley believes Steelers fans can likely expect more of what they watched during the first two weeks of the regular season. That is, a display of “awful” offense, which is what Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly predicted we’d see, at least through the early part of the season.
“I feel like the Steelers have to play a certain way to win games” and “they’re not the only team that has to play this way,” said Haley. That is, they have to play close to the vest and play good defense and not turn the ball over.
“It’s not what people want to hear, but I think the Steelers have to make less mistakes (than the other team’s offense), continue to play really good defense, stay in games and then win in the end.”