The Steelers’ offense under new offensive coordinators Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan will not look much different. It’s too late in the season to make such a drastic change, and both Faulkner and quarterback Kenny Pickett admitted as much. The team does not expect big changes in how it goes about its business, particularly this week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“You can’t have wholesale changes at this point,” Pickett said. “We’re going to run the system that we’ve been using. Coach Sully and Coach Faulk, they’re going to put their wrinkle on what they want to run and when they want to run it.”
However, some things can improve, and there are three tweaks that I want to see made to this team’s offense under Faulkner and Sullivan. Will they move mountains? No, but the run game was not sparked by rolling mountains, either. So, three things that can instantly improve? Here they are.
Details and Communication
This is not a schematic change. It’s a common-sense change. Pittsburgh’s struggles offensively have come up not just because the team has fallen flat on the schematic side of things. Still, the execution of fine details, including essential communication, are massive issue. The Browns are a great defense, but how many times was the depth of a route off, Pickett not on the same page as a receiver, or something small? Well, the answer is basically, throughout the entire game, those plagued Pittsburgh. Faulkner did note he was going to make the offense more detailed and would focus on communication.
“Just me in general, I’m a detailed guy,” Faulkner said. “That’s how I operate. That’s how I operated the running back room, so that’s how I’m operating anything that has to do with the offense or staff. To make sure we’re squeezing down, tightening up, closing all the space so when we go into a game the guys can execute and play fast. That’s the focus, and I feel like I can bring somebody to the table in that regard.”
Those details need to be sharp. The communication between everyone must be sharp. If those baseline things can at least improve, Pittsburgh’s offense, which is one of the worst units in football, can improve to one that has an average all-around showing week in and week out. The good for the Steelers is that you can improve these things in a week, and certainly, the communication can be cleaned up.
Pittsburgh already cleaned up details in the run game earlier this season. A sudden surge in detail-oriented football will not make the group have an elite passing game, but it could raise it to be passable, which is all they need with the run game humming along like it is now.
Play Action, Motion with Purpose
The Steelers don’t use play action much, but its benefit is almost a net zero when they do. Meanwhile, they use motion at the snap at a league-average rate, but its benefit is almost a net zero when used. Why? The fancy buzzwords like ‘motion’ and ‘play action’ are staples that every team in the league uses to some degree. But Pittsburgh’s usage of both is without purpose on plays. Instead, it is either short throws to the flat that will result in a modest catch and run, but not an explosive play, or something that takes away from the play.
I want to see motion used to give free releases, new stacked looks, and for play action to attack the middle of the field. These things are all in the playbook in some manner. We saw them at training camp. But they have not come to fruition. And maybe Pickett is just bad at it, but I would like to find that out. Open up the field a little bit and give the quarterback some easy layups, and if he fails you from there, the picture of the offense becomes clearer. But these are basic things that Pittsburgh should do.
Scout Your Own Tendencies
One thing that sometimes irked me about the Canada-led offense is that Pittsburgh would fall too much into the same old. Canada loved to spam plays without trying to predict or get ahead of how defenses would adjust to his plays that were working. There are small wrinkles you can add to the offense each week that give the quarterback and players some answers. It’s not hard to do. For example, on concepts where Pittsburgh spams the ball into the flat with the running back, some take a Texas route and break that tendency.
There are ways to break the tendency of what works. Pittsburgh has a lot of potential to work off this in the coming weeks if they can make minor tweaks inside of plays. Of course, it won’t be perfect because the scheme, to me, is still deeply flawed, but you can tweak things to really break tendencies within the offense. Pittsburgh has to do that, anyways. It could lead to some explosive plays.
FULL COVERAGE of the Steelers Firing of Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada
🏈 Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan, the two internal candidates to replace Matt Canada, are currently the betting favorites. That makes sense, because five of the last six Steelers offensive coordinator hires have come from within the organization.