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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Pumping the breaks: A rough start for the Steelers

The Steelers certainly made an impression in their opening games, but not in the way Yinzers hoped for. Though some believed the Steelers had a good shot in their match against the San Francisco 49ers, the opener brought fans’ sky-high expectations from the offseason back down to Earth. The Steelers’ offense continued to disappoint in their week-two Monday night football match against the Cleveland Browns, and was ultimately bailed out by their defense. With rising concerns about injuries, offensive play calling and Kenny Pickett, it may be time to readjust expectations for what the Steelers can accomplish in 2023.  

The Steeler’s opening three-and-out drive against the 49ers showed what their offense has to offer, and it is pitiful. San Francisco completely outclassed Pittsburgh’s offense, as they outscored them 20-7 in the first half alone. Even on defense, the only person that came to play was T. J. Watt, who had three sacks and two forced fumbles. In the end, the Steelers couldn’t get anything else going on offense, and the game finished 30-7 with an easy win for San Francisco. The only saving grace was the New York Giants getting trounced 40-0 later that night by the Dallas Cowboys, saving Pittsburgh from having the most embarrassing loss of the week.

Monday night’s matchup against the Browns had a much better outcome for coach Mike Tomlin and crew, but it was still extremely messy. The opening play, a pick 6 off a bobbled pass from Deshaun Watson, made it clear that this would be a defensively dominant game. It’s important to note that Nick Chubb, the star running back for the Browns, unfortunately suffered an incredibly gruesome and season-ending injury that severely limited their team’s rushing ability. After a close game where the Steelers’ defense scored 14 points, the final score was 26-22 for a hard-fought Pittsburgh victory.

There were some highlights, even if they were few in numbers. Watt is always a pleasure to watch and is still the soul of the Steelers’ defense. However, his counterpart, Alexander Highsmith, also showed why he got paid this offseason in his performance against the Browns, finishing with a sack, a pick 6, and a forced fumble that led to a scoop and score for Watt. George Pickens also had one of the few offensive highlights with a 71-yard touchdown on Monday night.  

Unfortunately, the highlights for the Steelers end there. Despite winning on Monday, the offense only scored 12 points against the Browns, half of which came from field goals. Currently, Pittsburgh ranks 31st in yards per game, 29th in third down conversions, 27th in yards per rush, 28th in yards per pass and low in various other statistics to make it one of the least efficient teams in the NFL. Injuries to key players have been debilitating, as defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and wide receiver Dionte Johnson are both on the injured reserve list. However, most of the blame has been directed towards Matt Canada and Pickett.

The problems most Steelers fans have with Canada’s scheme are well-documented: it is boring, basic and predictable. If any Yinzer yelling at their TV from the couch can predict what the Steelers are going to run on a given play, an NFL defensive coordinator certainly can as well. Criticisms of Pickett have been less talked about among Pittsburgh fans, but it may be time to come to terms with his meager potential. While he has faced only elite defenses so far this season, Pickett has shown no growth since last season. He has regressed to an average of six yards per pass attempt, a 60.5% completion rate and a passer rating of 69.7% in his two starts this year. Kenny needs a major trajectory change if the Steelers want to see any significant improvements on offense.

It’s looking a lot worse for Pittsburgh than it was two weeks ago. With key players on injured reserve and a bottom-of-the-barrel-offense, Mike Tomlin is going to need to put in work to preserve his non-losing season record. The next two matchups against the Las Vegas Raiders and the Houston Texans should be more forgiving than the 49ers and the Browns, but it never seems to come easy for Pittsburgh.

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    E.A.G.L.E.S. EaglesSep 30, 2023 at 9:09 pm

    This is why the Eagles are the superior PA NFL team…