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Steelers Offense Getting Even Worse? Blame Putrid Play Calling



Pittsburgh Steelers interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner before a game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 7, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Two weeks ago, after the Steelers‘ victory in Cincinnati over the Bengals, there was plenty of optimism over the new look offense. No, the scheme was not changed dramatically with Matt Canada gone, but interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner and play-caller Mike Sullivan sold a vision of a detail-oriented offense that could keep Pittsburgh afloat, move the ball down the field, and score at an average rate. Again, they are still in the confines of the Canada offense, but maybe something could give?

Since then? Things have gone downhill. Some of that is likely related to Kenny Pickett’s ankle injury. Pickett did not look that shabby against the Cardinals before his injury. But since his exit, the offense has fallen off a cliff with Mitch Trubisky at the helm. Turnovers and an alarming lack of details, sometimes the same things as the week before, crop up as patterns. But more than that, the play calling has fallen off a cliff since that first game, too.

Steelers QB Coach Mike Sullivan

Steelers play caller Mike Sullivan against the New England Patriots, Dec. 7, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers’ play-calling woes continue. Even after Canada is gone, Sullivan has the same tendencies that Canada did, if not worse. The big play call of the game, of course, was the 4th and 2 launch to Johnson that made little sense. Tomlin backed it up, saying the team wanted to be aggressive.

“It was, we were down there,” Tomlin said. “We play to win, we wanted to be aggressive. We just didn’t get it done.”

Of course, they did not try to run it once in that scenario before the two-minute warning. But, they will run it on 2nd-and-17 after a botched double reverse. The Steelers do not have a coherent building process in their gameplan. More than that, when something finally works, they spam it. They can tendency break once in a blue moon, but the team will spam that until the team adjusts, and then run it some more before finally scrapping it out of the playbook. Plays do not build on each other to any meaningful point. The play sequencing continues to fall far short of where it needs to be.

If you want to go back to those patterns repeating themselves, just take a look at the last two losses. After taking two illegal formation penalties against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, they took another one on Thursday. After burning a second-half timeout for not having enough players in the huddle on Sunday, they wasted one because they couldn’t get a play in on time on Thursday.

If you thought Canada was rock bottom, think again. The Steelers have been actively hurt by coaching, coordinating, and game-planning all season. With or without Canada at the helm, this group was hapless. They have more talent than to be playing like the worst offense in the NFL. But none of it will improve until coaching improves, and that’s a 2024 thing.