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Steelers Analysis & Film Study

Steelers Stat Pack: Offense Goes Conservative, Pickens Invisible

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Steelers WR George Pickens

The Steelers’ offense is in disarray and in a bad place after their loss to the Patriots. So, what needs to change, and what do the stats say about the Steelers’ loss? There is not much good to come out of the game, and that narrative rings true on the stat sheet, where the Steelers failed to produce any meaningful stats on the positive side of things.

Pickens Still Shut Out

George Pickens has yet to be able to get anything of note on the stat sheet. He did have a fancy 23-yard reception near the end of the first half, but outside of that, he has only put up two receptions for 26 yards on a low six targets. So, just how bad is it actually for Pickens in regards to his under-usage? His target share thus far is a mere 8.4 percent of the targets that Trubisky has doled out thus far. That ranks fifth on the offense behind Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth to this point, and it is not all that close.

According to Establish the Run, Pickens is on the field for nearly 78 percent of the snaps. Trubisky has taken 78 dropbacks, and Pickens has run a route on 72 of those routes. Pickens has been used, and on the film, he has been open. It is up to Trubisky and Matt Canada to get the young receiver more involved.

Conservative Offense 

The Steelers offense is a mess, and a big part of that is the lack of deep shots. Thus far in the season, only ten of Trubisky’s passes have traveled over 20 air yards or more. Not only that, but Trubisky is just not taking many chances down the field, specifically in the middle of the field.

18 passes of 33 attempts were within five or fewer yards of the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, there were only three attempts that went further than 20 yards, and none of those were in the middle of the field. Over the first two games, the combined passing chart per Steven Ruiz on the Ringer is not a pretty one.

There has only been one completed pass of 20 or more yards in the middle of the field. That pass was the free play to Pat Freiermuth against the Bengals in overtime. Part of the issue is Trubisky’s seeming unwillingness to push the ball down the field and the other is that the Steelers do not run enough concepts that stress the middle of the feidl. Either way, it has to change, and it is a concerning trend.

Trubisky’s average completed air yard distance was 4.6 yards, 6th worst in the NFL. His average depth of target was a modest 7.8 yards, but clearly, those downfield passes are not being completed. If the Steelers want to open something up, that needs to change.

Living Without T.J.

The Steelers not having T.J. Watt for the foreseeable is going to be a tough pill to swallow. However, the Steelers only registered three quarterback hits, five pressures, and zero sacks overall with him out of the game. As such, Mac Jones was able to dice the secondary underneath for a large portion of the game. The key stat here is that the Steelers now fall to 0-6-1 without Watt in the lineup for more than half the team’s defensive snaps since the start of 2020, according to Daniel Valente of TheScore.

He is so clearly a massive portion of the Steelers’ pass rush. Without him, the Steelers are always fighting an uphill battle to try and make up for what he is bringing to the table. With Watt on injured reserve, he has to be out for at least three more weeks.

A Coverage Change

The Steelers ran an absurd amount of Cover 2 in Week 1 compared to what they usually do. Over 40% of their snaps were in two high shells against Joe Burrow and the Bengals. This week that collapsed all the way down to a meager 10 snaps according to Next Gen Stats. The Steelers spent most of their time in single-high shells trying to move around and disguise coverages to Mac Jones. At times, it worked, but the Steelers did largely hold up in man coverage whenever they were asked to do so.

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