INDIANAPOLIS — Wide receiver Allen Robinson II and linebacker Elandon Roberts sat at their lockers in the visiting team locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium, staring off into the distance after the Steelers’ 30-13 loss to the Colts. One of those guys can say his unit is decimated to the bone by the linebackers and safeties. The cornerback room was never that good. But the other player, Robinson, had no solutions to how to fix where they were when I asked him how they could fix this rut.
“I don’t know,” Robinson said. “That’s a good question.”
Diontae Johnson didn’t stray far from the beaten path. He is focused on himself individually and says they must ‘work.’ Mike Tomlin was lost in the sauce. The head coach did not answer why his team lacked fundamentals as a football team.
“We’re not doing fundamental things well enough. We’re not,” Tomlin said. “We’re turning the ball over. We’re highly penalized. We don’t play good in situations. I’m just acknowledging that. I don’t necessarily have the answers as I sit here today. If I had the answers, we’d have played differently today.”
They have the answers. Everyone knows what is going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s an organization flawed on a results-over-process basis. You can point to decisions such as the punt instead of going for a field goal that Chris Boswell made last week. That only exacerbates the issue, though.
This Steelers offense is the team’s main issue. The defense is depleted, and they put their guys in bad spots consistently, so it’s not entirely excused, but it’s not hard to point the blame when the athletes on defense are not there. But this offense is suffering from something far more grave.
The Steelers’ offense is what happens when the process on one side of the ball is broken. This team has nothing. They lack an identity, have nothing that comes easy, and every play they make relies on the players’ talent to bail out a slapdash scheme. But this is not a chicken or egg situation. What is worse, the scheme, the quarterback play, or the offense’s lack of details across the board?
The issue is everything. But it goes higher to the head coach and the rest of the organization when a group looks this broken. Retaining Matt Canada, whoever did so, was a grave mistake. It was clear he was not the guy in 2022, and they worsened that by not adding a viable replacement on the staff to fill his void. For how bad Canada was, his replacements are much worse, mainly because the coaching on that side of the ball is below the line.
Pittsburgh’s lack of details falls on the coaching staff. Why can they not line up correctly? Is there any explanation for why the team fixes one issue, and a new one pops up? Man, it gets grating talking about the same topics repeatedly. Nothing is unique, all of this has been happening for multiple years, and certainly since Week 1. That’s why no one has the answers. This group has not shown the ability to be a good offense. If they aren’t now, they won’t be.
This is what happens when the top rots with no vision. Its process is purely based on nonsustainable results. Pittsburgh has played itself into quarterback no man’s land. Kenny Pickett might be something, but his historically bad production in multiple areas gives you little hope. But at least he takes care of the football. If you thought Pickett was bad, like the coordinators replacing Canada, Mitch Trubisky was much worse.
Meanwhile, Trubisky, a player with a Pro Bowl nod to his name and, more than that, a guy who has led teams to the playoffs, looks like the worst quarterback in the NFL. Meanwhile, Jake Browning, Nick Mullens, and Tommy Devito slice up defenses like it’s no one’s business. Trubisky is terrible, but is he this bad? Again, probably not, but that happens when the offense is a headless chicken without clear leadership from the players or coaches and runs a mishmash of items that come together to create negatives all across the board.
But my main point? This offense isn’t devoid of talent. Blue chippers? Nope. Players that can lead this team to have a decent offense? Yep. This offense has holes at center and left tackle. Their wide receivers are a black hole outside of George Pickens and Johnson. They don’t have buy-in from most of these guys, though. The culture of that side of the ball is severely lacking.
But two factors make everyone else much worse than they are at the outset. Poor coaching. And poor quarterback play. That leads to frustration down the hierarchy. The receivers lash out. Offensive linemen look worse when the quarterback slides into the pressure. There is no leadership to fill the void left by a quality offensive coordinator and quarterback. All of these main problems lie in the feet of management, and the head coach, who allowed that foster on the opposite side of the ball.
It shows how much the main factors in an offense can allow everything to rot around it. A team can rot when the quarterback play stinks and the coaching is even worse. There is no vision, details, or solace from this truth. The Steelers are in an era of bad football. This is what it looks like. It’s a foreign concept in the Steel City. But it’s not to teams like the Lions, Browns, Bears, Panthers, and others in those teams’ recent histories. This happens when you have a systematic failure from the top down.
Pittsburgh’s quarterback play has faded them into a hole on the field. It’s coaching that has left them devoid of room for improvement. Both have collapsed the leadership and culture on that side of the ball. The Steelers don’t have much to grasp onto there. They need a systematic change. The offensive staff must change, ultimately. The quarterback room needs an overhaul. Pittsburgh’s vision of football on this side falls flat.
It’s hard to say who is mainly at fault. Tomlin holds lots of it. But does it extend up to Art Rooney II? Kevin Colbert’s poor drafts in his last few years left the cupboard bare, but Omar Khan has done some solid work to restock the shelves. But it’s not enough.
The process needs to change. You must find something that aligns with the modern NFL: a coach who can lead and get the most out of his players. For a quarterback, they need baseline play. But welcome to bad football, Pittsburgh. It looks like this, and the offense has no excuse to be this bad.
Competency and vision do not have to come at the cost of creativity or loyalty. You can’t be loyal to a fault. The Steelers got suckered into a fake plant this season. It hurt them severely, and now the team is looking down the barrel of a crossroads in the offseason. Sweeping changes need to be made. The fish is rotting from the head down. Even if there is talent and upside elsewhere, this happens when the biggest, most essential fail completely.