PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ offense showed off what they could be in the preseason. They were given five drives and turned all of those drives into touchdowns. Perhaps the most impressive part of what they did is that Kenny Pickett spread the ball around through the air, and Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren each got to eat on the ground. They did many things, and seemingly, no one could stop them.
But preseason success is perilous and has no guarantee to stick in the regular season. Harris and the offense went through this last season when the team went undefeated, and while they did in different ways this preseason, the noise can get to the heads of the offense.
“Offense has looked really good, best since I’ve been here,” Harris said. “But now we got to focus in on the regular season. That’s really what matters most. Not looking too much into the media and social media and how good they’re saying we are, staying focused and not buying the fool’s gold.”
There is a staggering confidence level in the Steelers right now. But that type of mentality that Harris talks about is the right approach. Do not put the cart before the horse. The preseason was fun but not something the Steelers should crown themselves with. It should just be a tool to build that confidence.
So, what changed for the Steelers offense? There is more continuity, but the leadership across the team is much better as well. Whether it is the additions of Allen Robinson and Isaac Seumalo or the maturation of players like Harris and Pickett, Pittsburgh is putting together the right recipe on and off the field, at least at a distance, to have the offense running at a high level.
“Last year, we won all three preseason games and came out the way we did,” Harris said. “How we won those three preseason games last year was completely different from how we win them this year. We scored a lot more points; we’re more efficient this year. We scored on the first two drives of all three games this year. You see it meshing a lot better. In the preseason last year, we didn’t accomplish the things we did now.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada had a confidence level last year that never matured itself onto the field. However, none of it matters. At the end of the season, no one will look at what Pittsburgh did in the preseason and care about the hot start if it never comes to fruition in the regular season.
The grounded nature of the offense is rooted in their two leaders. Canada reiterates how much work they still need to do. At the same time, Pickett continues to showcase his ascent as a player on the field, with cautious optimism but a confidence about the team that proves infectious to the entire offense.
“I mean, it doesn’t really, nothing we’ve done counts,” Canada said. “I mean, I think there’s positive in going out and doing what we should do, and doing what we’ve done in practice everybody would like. If we didn’t do that, we’d all be talking about it. But it doesn’t matter until it starts to count for real. So, happy with where we are, happy with the execution, the urgency the guys have shown, you know, happy with a lot of things we’ve done. But none of that really matters until a couple of weeks from now.”
After graudally warming the offense up to the level where they needed to be, Canada and Mike Tomlin are ready to unleash the young offense that hopes to take a leap. As Harris said, the team will play a full game against a high-level 49ers defense that should challnege them at every angle. But it’s time to prove that their success is not a flash in the pan.
“The chains are off now,” Harris said.
Facing an elite defensive front with a solid secondary to boot with it, Pickett and the Steelers offense should find out if their success will carry over into the regular season on that first afternoon.