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Steelers Analysis

Farabaugh: Despite Victory, Steelers Can’t Ignore Obvious Flaws



Steelers HC Mike Tomlin
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin against the Ravens, Oct. 8, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers have clawed out three victories, each seemingly more stunning than the last. I’ve seen some outlandish wins in Mike Tomlin’s tenure as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Sunday’s win over the Ravens is as inconceivable as any of those previous victories. And, of course, the feeling around the locker room is positive. The infamous padded practice line that Tomlin gave this Tuesday is something he attributed the week’s work to that helped lead to a win. That’s the ‘football justice’ he refers to weekly.

“They made a commitment throughout the week, the prep, the things that we talked about leading up to the week that we had to do better in preparation. I felt that. I felt an earnest effort in that regard. And there’s football justice,” Tomlin said.

But despite the win, it’s hard to buy into this group as a sustainable unit. That does not mean they can not win nine games again, squeak into the playoffs, and have an oddball playoff game. Sure, that’s possible. But the offense is in disarray. The defensive secondary remains porous. There are parts of this team rounding into shape, but not at the seams where it makes the most difference.

Despite the high emotions of the game and the final drive, let’s not absolve this offense for anything. It was a slogging, awful game up to that point. And the usual issues remained in this game. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada made several baffling calls, while his static offense that pushed the ball outside the numbers popped up in this game more than ever. Kenny Pickett’s passing chart from this week showcases this one. Canada did not make as many egregious play calls this week to me as this past week, but obviously, not much worked until the final drive, so something is going awry.

For reference, if you want to see what it’s like to ignore the middle of the field, both a product of the scheme and the quarterback, take a look at Kenny Pickett’s passing chart from this week.

Pickett himself has a colossal clutch gene. He deserves credit for his best throw of the year on the Pickens touchdown throw. That remains true, but he must be better before those drives. Pickett still ran into pressure, dropped his eyes, took terrible sacks, and remained a chaotic quarterback. Yet again, I love the big moment splash from Pickett; that’s him, but I need more out of him in the three-quarters before that.

The offensive line failed to pick up several stunts while getting minimal push in the run game. As a result, the Steelers averaged a mere 2.9 yards per carry. The problems remain upfront despite some new guys coming into the fold. In particular, Mason Cole and Nate Herbig stood out in harmful lights in this game. The team misses James Daniels, and his return to the lineup will be welcome for the group following the bye week.

Lastly, the group missed their weapons in Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson. That’s unsurprising, but they have no consistent weapon outside of Pickens in the passing game. Jaylen Warren probably deserves more of a run there, and he proved he should get that. But the process of the win continues to say this is unsustainable. They’ve done it thrice, but they need more from the offense. The group has to give them out of the bye week.

I’m trying to say that the Steelers have massive offensive problems. That’s before getting to the defensive secondary, who may have found some footing with Joey Porter Jr. now getting legitimate playing time. He had a season-high 28 snaps on Sunday, but that’s only 40 percent of the defensive snaps. However, the second-half share has to be higher than that. Regardless, the Ravens’ receivers dropping everything over the field in the first half returned to haunt them. But it was not some fantastic performance by the secondary.

Regardless, changes need to be made. The Steelers can not let the offense sink them as it has, and the secondary has to play at least average. Pittsburgh is a sorely flawed team that has found ways to claw out wins through splash plays. Splash plays are great because they are the great equalizer, but you get what the Steelers are when you live and die by them. Despite the results, Tomlin needs to look at the process and make changes to get the team back on track and coming out strong following the bye week.