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Saunders: Fans Want Pickett, But QB Change Won’t Fix Steelers Offense

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Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Mitch Trubisky

PITTSBURGH — Let it be known that the chants for rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett started in the third quarter of the first home game of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The fanbase, already lusting to see the first-round quarterback from Pitt once again grace the playing surface of what is now Acrisure Stadium, was not deterred from that stance one bit by what Mitch Trubisky and the Steelers’ offense showed through the first two games.

They’re not likely to get their wish any time soon, with the Steelers facing the Cleveland Browns on a short week of preparation this Thursday.

It’s also significantly unclear whether Pickett would make any difference to an offense that seems unable to succeed in any phase of the game.

First, let’s take a step back. Way back. Like to 11th grade.

Did you ever have a conversation with a teacher or someone else that’s taken more than three macroeconomics classes and have them try to explain to you that since our currency isn’t backed by any real assets, our entire economy is just based on consumer confidence that everything will continue to work as it’s supposed to?

If you’re anything like me, you try to process that for a few moments, decide you’re not capable of doing so, and move on with your life.

But what we’re seeing from the Steelers’ offense right now is what happens when someone loses confidence in an institution.

The Steelers didn’t do much on offense against the New England Patriots in Week 2. It marked a poor offensive performance for the second straight week. The really damning part is that they didn’t even really try. They didn’t push the ball down the field, they didn’t run much tempo, and they didn’t even go into the bag of tricks for a quick spark like they did in Cincinnati.

It seemed like every possession was doomed to be a punt from the start. 

The Steelers needed five turnovers and a blocked extra point to beat the Bengals in Week 1. They only got one turnover against a much worse New England team in Week 2 and lost.

Either way, it seems that the offensive game plan was just not to lose the game, and hope the defense wins it.

That’s a problem that goes beyond who plays at quarterback. Trubisky wasn’t great against the Patriots. The one interception was a poor decision. He took two sacks when he shouldn’t have. But none of that really cost the Steelers any points.

If all the Steelers asked Pickett to do as what they asked Trubisky to, it wouldn’t result in one more point for the offense. 

So why doesn’t Mike Tomlin trust his offense? Is it the play calling of coordinator Matt Canada? The inability of the offensive line to make holes in the running game or protect the quarterback? Would he have any more confidence in a rookie making his first start than he does in Trubisky?

The answer is probably all of the above.

The Steelers can win some games without much in the way of offensive contributions. They showed that in Week 1. They were one muffed punt away from doing it again this week. They can probably be an average team with a very good defense and a bad offense.

That might have to be the answer. The issues with the offensive line won’t be resolved this season. The Steelers have talented backs and receivers, but struggled to get them the ball in positions to make plays. None of the options at quarterback figures to be the kind of player that can will a team to victory.

At some point, it might behoove the Steelers to just take a look at Pickett to see what they have, but they are miles and miles away from that point. After the rest of the AFC North somehow had worse days than the Steelers did, they remain in first place in the division. It’s really hard to see someone running away with things and taking the Steelers out of contention any time soon, even with their offense running on fumes.

And as long as a winning season and playoff berth remain possibilities, expect the Steelers to continue to try to make this plan work, as tough as it might be to watch at times.

But the chants for Pickett probably won’t stop. Trubisky seems to recognize that.

“It is what it is,” he said. “You just block it out and continue to play football.”

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