PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are seeing positive signs on offense with the blistering rushing attack coming alive. But the passing game is stagnant and falling back. Kenny Pickett and his receivers have not been productive over the last three games, leading to serious concerns about where this group is moving forward.
How can they crack it, and is it a problem when they are 6-3, though? Mike Tomlin says it is, but he likes that they can learn about it through wins rather than losses. With Pittsburgh struggling to get that last key in the ignition offensively, it could make them too one-dimensional, thus hurting the run game. Tomlin, as a result, says he has to see more out of Pickett.
“Man, we’re gonna need more. Particularly as this road narrows,” Tomlin said. “But guys like Kenny and myself, we’re measured by wins and losses. He and I talk about that often and openly. We know what our jobs are. Our jobs are to win. And so, that’s where we are. That’s where our focus is. I love the fact that he embraces that. Down in and down out, are there some things to work on? Certainly, but it’s not like we’re going to start on Wednesday working on those things. We’ve been working on those things, and we will continue until we get the desired result.”
Pittsburgh’s Lackluster Passing Attack
Pickett owns the longest streak without an interception in the NFL at 147 passing attempts. He has not thrown an interception since October 1 against the Houston Texans. And in that time frame, Pittsburgh lost just one game to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The stat lines are ugly and borderline deceitful at times because there have been plays that maybe should have gone the other way, but Pickett, so far, is doing a great job of not putting the ball in harm’s way.
The Steelers are seeing a lot of two-high looks, even though they are running the ball well. Green Bay responded to their dominant rushing attack by starting to creep a safety down and go into Cover 3 looks, but mostly, teams are clouding over the top of both sides to take back shoulder balls and forcing curls and comebacks to the sideline. On other points, Pickett is missing guys in the middle of the field. It’s a double-edged sword that has multiple points of blame.
“We had opportunities, we just didn’t connect on them,” Pickett said. “Had a back shoulder to George, which was a really good play for us, just wish we had some more opportunities to do so, but we got the win, that’s the most important thing.”
The bottom line? Without a passing offense operating at something approaching league-average efficiency, without Pickens and Johnson being consistently open and having the offense execute through them, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers being better than they are. They have to get to the level they were at by the end of the last year. If they do that? They can beat many teams, even good ones, with a more consistent winning style.