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Steelers Analysis

The Problem With the Steelers Offense? Everything



Steelers Kenny Pickett
Kenny Pickett at Steelers vs. Browns, Sep. 18th, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers offense has problems. We know this. You can put on the tape, point to many stats where they rank last, and the gambit is done. It’s time to start asking the real hard-hitting question. What in the world is wrong with the offense? I thought about that venture when Matt Canada’s press conference ended on Thursday.

The ‘Fire Canada’ chants put who the fanbase has decided as their sacrificial lamb into perspective. Canada is the perceived problem by Pittsburgh. And to be fair, I would say he is the main problem in this equation. Speaking of those stats, how about some of those Warren Sharp exposed on Thursday?

The Steelers’ offense averages 9.5 points per game through two games and a league-low 12 first downs. They’re the only team in the league that has failed to register a first down in the first quarter. In shotgun, the Steelers pass the ball 82 percent of the time. Under center, they run the ball nearly 90 percent of the time. The team runs the least amount of play-action in the NFL and is near the bottom in motion.

I can’t say the tape is much more endearing to Canada. He holds much blame, but it’s not all on him. Canada falls short in his ability to help his struggling players and actively hurt them in many situations. For a group of personnel that can not execute, Canada is not the right play-caller for where this team stands.

Perhaps the issue with the Steelers’ offense is that there isn’t one problem or explanation. There are far too many. Okay, Canada is the most scrutinized one by everyone, and it’s not that hard to see why questions arise about the offensive coordinator.

But Kenny Pickett has struggled mightily. In terms of on-field problems, Pickett might be number one. He does not have many layups schemed up for him (another box against Canada), but the ones schemed up for him have not gone well. Pickett has missed easy throws that any NFL starting quarterback should hit. The slant route to Diontae Johnson against the 49ers will be drawn to often, but he missed Calvin Austin III on a shallow drag against the Browns.

Adding more, Pickett’s entire process has gone into the toilet. The inaccuracy makes little sense. It’s not like Pickett is suddenly losing his mechanical base. He isn’t. But he looks jittery in the pocket. He panics on his first read often, comes back to that first read in questionable times in plays, and makes hazardous decisions. Not just that, Pickett’s pocket presence habits have come back in the worst way. He has run into sacks and created more pressure for himself. There is little that Pickett is doing well.

That brings you to the offensive line. It’s a group that should be better. They brought in Isaac Seumalo and expected the group to mesh well. But instead, players have taken steps back. James Daniels and Seumalo, the supposed strength of the offensive line, are lost. Linebackers run free in the running game. There are missed blocks in pass protection and the run game. As such, the running backs and Pickett take massive shots they simply should not. The tight ends are a net negative in the run game, and the wide receivers have done little there, too.

There’s not a lot that this team is doing well up front. For a group that took a lot of strides last year, no player on that line can say they are playing well right now. As far as the skill group, they are fine. The tight ends have struggled and Pat Freiermuth is a nonfactor right now. George Pickens has played well, but outside of him, the receivers leave a lot to be desired without Diontae Johnson. The running backs are the best unit on the team at this point.

That’s the problem with this offense. From the top to the bottom, it flat-out stinks. There’s no magical cure, so Canada throws his hands up when asked how to fix it. For the defense, the fixes are more straightforward. Communication and fundamental tackling will take that unit back to where it should be. But for the offense? It’s broken.

Maybe, just maybe, they do fire Canada during the season. But that won’t fix much of anything. The personnel hold much of the blame here, too. But for a group that appears so directionless, it’s hard to see how much further they can fall before something has to give. Sunday is the test. The Raiders defense is fine, but it’s not a great unit, and the Steelers should put up points on that group.

If they can’t, it’s the ultimate indictment of this group. The everything problem that the team carries around on offense is a multi-week fix. But there have to be signs in the right direction at some point.