Brooke PryorESPN Writer4 minute read
PITTSBURGH — Less than 13 hours after a win, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin admitted his offense wasn’t playing at the level it achieved in the preseason.
Through two games, the Steelers offense is averaging 9.5 points per game and a league-low 12 first downs. On Monday night, Pittsburgh only had nine first downs and didn’t run a single red zone play in a 26-22 win against the Cleveland Browns.
And yet, Tomlin said the solution was not to make “knee-jerk” reactions to implement “total changes.”
“We’ve got to get our mojo back,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We have to get back that charm that we had in pre-season, where we played fast and fluid with confidence, individually and collectively. We have lost that, to be frank, in recent weeks.
“…We recognize that two is a pattern. We’ve had two outings that didn’t measure up in that regard, so you have our attention as we prepare for the next one.”
The 26 points scored by the Steelers without a red zone drive were the team’s most in the last 45 years, and the most in the NFL since the Kansas City Chiefs scored 27 against the New Orleans Saints in 2016.
The Steelers managed just one offensive touchdown in each of their first two games, a far cry from the five touchdowns scored in the first team’s five preseason possessions. Pickett has been erratic so far this season, completing just 60.5% of his attempts, ahead of only starting quarterbacks Bryce Young, Joe Burrow, Bryce Young, Deshaun Watson and Zach Wilson.
“He’s done a lot of things well in preparation,” Tomlin said of Pickett. “He could play better, we could all play better, but from a procedural standpoint I like what I see from him. And usually when a player is in the right place from a procedural standpoint, the performance soon follows.”
The running game is also stagnant with just 96 total rushing yards at an average of 3.1 yards per carry, which ranks 27th in the league. The Steelers have also punted 13 times this season, tied for the most in the league.
Since Matt Canada was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021, the Steelers offense has faltered and struggled to move the ball consistently. Since then, every other NFL team has had at least three games with 400 total yards of offense; the Steelers haven’t had any.
“We’re not blaming anyone. Obviously it all starts with training,” Tomlin said of the offense’s slow start. “We have to train better. We have to make these guys play faster and more fluid. We have to start faster. We have to play more coordinated, particularly in the early stages of games.”
With offensive struggles heading into the 2022 season, frustration among the fan base reached a fever pitch Monday night.
Steelers fans at Acrisure Stadium grew restless with each additional punt Monday night, booing the offense as it walked off the field after fruitless drives.
“He’s got to get us going,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said after the game. “Obviously it’s never fun, but we have to learn from it, and obviously it’s more of a motivation to keep going. We love the fans here and they obviously expect good football, so I’ll try to continue.” play good football and win for them.”
For the team’s seventh punt Monday night, a loud chant imploring Tomlin to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada engulfed the stadium.
When asked about it on Tuesday, Tomlin did not criticize fans for their words.
“I appreciate his passion,” Tomlin said. “I share their passion. We all do, man. We love our fans, man. They inspire us. They challenge us. It’s an amazing relationship, man. We don’t run from challenges. We run toward challenges.
“This is a sports entertainment business. Our job is to win and thus entertain them, and so we don’t envy them for that. We want them to be fat, bold and pampered. It’s our job.”
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