Under Kenny Pickett’s guidance, the Steelers offense looked great in the preseason, going five for five on touchdown drives. However, were there tangible changes within the offense, or did the team end up executing at a higher rate? Well, there is one stat that the team rose above the entire NFL with during the preseason.
The Steelers led the entire NFL in deep-ball passing rate during the preseason. Pickett still threw for a perfect passer rating despite the team pushing the ball down the field. According to Ian Hartitz of Fantasy Life, not only did they lead the NFL in deep-ball passing rate, but it is up over 10 percent from 2022.
The Steelers noted they would try to be more explosive throughout training camp in 2023. According to George Pickens, the plays did not change, but the progressions within the plays did change. In other words, Pickett would be looking to throw the ball down the football field a lot more in 2023 than his rookie year, where Matt Canada went risk-averse.
“I feel like that was an explosive hint,” Pickens said at training camp. “It’s really just a change. The same plays are the same plays, but as far where we going with the ball, it’s a huge change. We can be more explosive.”
During his opening press conference in Latrobe, Mike Tomlin noted his team wanted to be more explosive in 2023, citing their stats in that area from last year. Perhaps with a young quarterback and all of the changes, though, the team needed a formula to rally around to win, and part of that ended up being a lack of deep passing to push down the turnover rate. But now, that seems to be thrown out the window.
“Hey, we want to be explosive,” Tomlin said. “We want to get yards in chunks, and I guess that’s what he’s speaking to, but we also want to possess the ball and control the flow of the game, and so we’ve got to do all things if we want to be a dominant group, and that’s a component of it. We weren’t explosive enough a year ago in terms of chunk plays, and so there’s a focus there.”
The stats from the preseason back it up, and the success rate was high on those throws. Now, none of it matters until it translates into the regular season. Week 1 may not be the week to test the theory out with the fierce 49ers pass rush on the other side, but that preseason success will have to carry over for the offense to take a significant step forward.