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Steelers Players Buying Into Big Changes on Offense



Steelers OC Mike Sullivna
Steelers play caller Mike Sullivan during the Bengals game, Nov. 26, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ offense was different on Sunday in Cincinnati. No, they never changed the scheme, though they changed how they operated within that scheme. Instead, they embraced details and a new meeting schedule to try and get things back on track. The on-the-field changes and tweaks became evident as you watched the tape, but it was not the catalyst for the best yardage output the Steelers have posted in three seasons.

With the changes on the field evident, the off-the-field changes might have worked their way onto the field more than anything. Last week, Faulkner noted that he was a detail-first guy. That has the locker room buying into what Faulkner is selling, and they seem bought in.

Mike Sullivan and Eddie Faulkner’s detail-oriented style is new. And implementing that approach is a little harder. Faulkner did two things to change that around, and players seem to love it, and they’re not wondering about things anymore. The ‘why’ of the offense does not have to be answered.

“The buy-in felt great,” Faulkner said. “I love the energy. I don’t think they can fake it that good, for it not to feel real, and it feels real. And so man, we just going to take that momentum and keep rolling with it.”

Faulker engineered a week where the meetings changed. The running backs and offensive linemen changed their meeting times on their own after the bye week. But Faulkner implemented something similar to the passing game with the quarterbacks and all of the eligibles in there. The receivers, Kenny Pickett, Faulkner, and Sullivan sat down, went through each area of the field an each potential situation, and picked out the plays they liked the most. Does it sound bare minimum? Yes, but when the communication was that off, guys were left wondering ‘why’ some things happened. Calvin Austin III saw the difference.

“I’d say it was intentional,” Austin said. “Coach Sully and Coach Faulk were spelling out every situation we’ll be in and what we can expect from him to call. It was really them laying out, ‘in this situation, we’ll do this’, and ‘you can expect this’, so we came into the game knowing ‘oh, we’re in this 3rd-and-5 and we know what play is going to get called. It was everybody being understanding and knowing the goal of play call, and in each situation, knowing what to expect.”

More than anything, Faulkner involved all the assistants in explaining in greater detail why everything happened. These concepts and ideas seemed to put everyone on the same page. Interestingly, most of the communication errors were gone. They overcommunicated and talked about each play call they would like and why they would call them.

“They went through with the entire offense and told them in detail why everything was going to happen,” Austin said. “I feel like, in general, it’s not just from play calling, but it was all of the guys on the offense knowing what to expect, being on the same page, and we weren’t going out there wondering like,’ why are we doing this’? And not to say we weren’t in the past, but it just removing any chance of there being questions.”

Now, the hope that can turn into points. But there is no doubt that the Steelers players are buying into what Faulkner and Sullivan are selling. The execution now needs to improve, and Pittsburgh has to embrace the details on every play to improve that.