PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ offense has struggled, and while it is not due to just one unit or person, the offensive line has stuck out in the wrong way over the first three weeks. Pittsburgh’s group has regressed after a solid ending to last season. The running game looks static, while Kenny Pickett, despite creating some of his pressure, has given up too many pressures and lost one-on-ones.
But the odd problem is that the group has failed to pass off stunts. With four of the starting five returning, Pittsburgh expected some continuity. Plus, new left guard Isaac Seumalo is fantastic at breaking down pre-snap looks and deciphering what is about to come. Future Hall of Famer Jason Kelce talked about how special Seumalo is to cash in on that rep after rep in pass protection.
“I think he’s one of the best guards in the NFL, and I think he has been,” Kelce said. “I think he’s one of the most consistent players I’ve ever been around, one of the most consistent people I’ve ever been around. So we’re not going to replace Isaac; there’s going to be someone new in there, and they’re going to have their attributes that they’re going to excel with, and I’m looking forward to seeing who does a really good job with that.”
Maxx Crosby destroyed the Steelers by looping around towards the interior. Za’Darius Smith and Myles Garrett found similar success. It’s becoming an issue and a way for teams to unlock elite pass rushers against the Steelers. Crosby racked up a whopping nine pressures on Sunday. Why is it an even bigger issue for the Steelers?
Some too many free runners are getting hits on Pickett. Some of the hits that Pickett takes are his own doing when he gets happy feet and bails on the pocket. But with the offensive line struggling to pass stunts off, Pickett is getting hit even when he stands there, too. The issue is compounded by Pickett’s inability to consistently stick in the pocket against interior pressure. Often, Pickett looks more comfortable when dealing with outside pressure, but those loopers continue to crash on the interior and throw the Steelers out of sync.
So, it remains little surprise that the group went to work on it during practice. They need to communicate with each other on a higher level. That calls for pre-snap and post-snap calls among one another, as it does not feel there is that innate feel for one another across the offensive line. The guards and Mason Cole, in particular, seem to have some work to do to correct this issue thoroughly.
Even the running backs have had a few issues in this area, with some linebackers running free. Communication is an issue up front in these protection schemes, so it is little surprise to see that stunts get the better of the group for now. With DeMeco Ryans and his innovative blitzes up front this week, the offensive line will be tested early and often.