PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ offense looked better against the Cincinnati Bengals. Was it perfect? Far from it, but the team has solid building blocks to work with naturally coming out of that game. Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan did a nice job of working new things into the offense, including a drastic uptick in 13 personnel.
That means that all three tight ends, Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, and Connor Heyward were on the field at the same time. Before Sunday, they had run just seven plays out of 13 personnel, but that suddenly jumped to 11 plays on Sunday alone. Quarterback Kenny Pickett endorsed the package, and really liked what he saw out of it.
“The versatility out of it. I don’t think you’re run heavy,” Pickett said. “I think the things that we did off of it were really good. I love having Connor (Heyward) and Pat (Freiermuth) in there as well as Darnell (Washington). You know, getting Darnell (Washington) a touch in the pass game was great out of our drop back stuff. So, I think we’re pretty versatile in it and it keeps the defense honest.”
The Steelers did not change their entire scheme offensively against the Cincinnati Bengals to crack the code and get over 400 yards in their win. But it felt like they used personnel to get guys in good spots to make plays. That’s something that did not happen enough under Matt Canada. Najee Harris saw the plays happen, and it not only prevents linebackers from straight-up shooting through gaps, but gives Pittsburgh better timing and rhythm.
“Well, it’s good, you have more bodies on the field,” Harris said. “I mean, that’s only in certain spots, though. It’s only in certain personnel. I don’t want to go to into depth with that specific group. But really, it’s good and it helps us there.”
For the first time all year, Freiermuth was mainly detached from the line of scrimmage. He played out off the formation and was used as a big receiver. When asked to block, Freiermuth was asked to block inside linebackers or defensive backs, not defensive ends. And on the rare occasion he had to block defensive ends, Freiermuth’s confidence allowed him to compete.
But a big part of that was going a little heavier and allowing Freiermuth to be the split out tight end while others did work on the inside. That grouping could see more in run in the next few weeks, as it creates mismatches for the Steelers up front and in the passing game.