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Panic is not a word that’s generally linked to the PittsburghSteelers. They’re quite possibly probably the most stable franchise in sports. They will have had three head coaches in over half of a century. They will have won six Super Bowls. And their current head coach has neverexperienced a losing season.
However the anxiety level on the banks of the Monongahela Riveris ratcheting up because Mike Tomlin’s stretch of non-losing seasons is in veryserious jeopardy. After losing 29-17 to the Jacoby Brissett-led ClevelandBrowns on Thursday night, talk radio in the Steel City will without doubt focus on thenotion of removing quarterback Mitch Trubisky and replacing him withfirst-round rookie Kenny Pickett.
However the the truth is that Trubisky’slimitations aren’t the Steelers’ only problem. Or their biggest problem.This team has real issues on both sides of the balland a big change undercenter isn’t likely to fix them.
Earlier this week, while appearing on The Mike TomlinShow on the team’s YouTube channel, Pittsburgh’s head coach indicated thathe wasn’t considering major changes to the starting lineupincluding atquarterback.
Im not in a nearby of experiencing discussions likethat, man, Tomlin said, viaBob Quinn of Steelers Nation. Im more worried about our collectivegrowth and development and what were piecing together when it comes to what wedesire to accomplish to engineer victory. [Trubisky is] only a element of it.
Tomlin’s patience was put to the test Thursday night by agame that has been in lots of respects a carbon copy of Pittsburgh’s Week 2 loss to theNew England Patriots.
The good thing for the Steelers offense is that the team seta season saturated in yardage. The bad news is that season high was 308 yards.Pittsburgh entered Thursday’s action dead last in the AFC altogether offense, andthis week’s total isn’t likely to help that ranking much.
Does Trubisky bear his share of responsibility for anotherlackluster offensive effort? Sure. His numbers Thursday were a testament tomediocrity20 completions in 32 attempts for 207 yards and a passer rating of81.1. Just as before, Trubisky flatly refused to attackthe middle of the field.
This is simply not new. It has been a style all season.
Marcus Mosher @Marcus_Mosher
Here’s Steelers QB Mitchell Trubisky’s passing charts through Week 2 via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats: pic.twitter.com/Q63PmTOf0L
But solely blaming Trubisky because of this offense’s inability to average300 yards of offense three weeks in to the season is unfair. There’s plenty ofblame to bypass.
Pittsburgh entered Week 3 with the seventh-worst ground gamein the NFL, averaging 83 yards per game. That number will bump just a little afterthe Steelers amassed 104 yards on 22 carries, but their ground game lookedpathetic in comparison to Cleveland’s.
Lead back Najee Harris has yet to find yourself in any sort ofgroove this year, and Week 3 was no exception. He gained just 3.7 yards percarry on his 15 totesand that has been actually his best average of the growing season.Heading in to the week, he was averaging significantly less than three yards a pop.
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That ain’t good, folks.
Needless to say, Trubisky’s and Harris’ struggles could be traced toyet another of the issues. The Steelers haveone of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. In his latest offensiveline rankings, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranked Pittsburgh’s front 28th inthe league.
Yes, that line only allowed one sack contrary to the Browns. Butsaid sack came on a crucial third down in the next half, and the Pittsburgh frontwas just as before struggling to open holes for the run game.
Lest you imagine he’ll be spared, offensive coordinator MattCanada deserves blame, too. Amid reportsthat some in the business are growing frustrated with the second-year OC,Canada’s play-calling fell flat once more. When Canada found something thatactually did work (using tempo in the initial half), it completelydisappeared after halftimeand Pittsburgh’s momentum vanished with it.
But wait! There’s more!
For many years, the Steelers have already been a team connected with fearsomeand formidable defenses. But similar to the their capability to move the ball consistently,that’s gone now, too.
AP Photo/David Richard
This past year, the Steelers fielded the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 146.1 yards per game. This season, that number “improved”through two gamesto 22nd in the league at 128.5 yards per contest.
After facing the Browns, that number is headed in the wrongdirection. Nick Chub, Kareem Hunt and the Browns gashed the Steelers for 171 yardson the bottom. Granted, the Browns tend to do this, butWeek 3 was a repeat of Week 2 contrary to the Patsa worn-down Steelers defensebeing operate on successfully over and over in the next half.
The pass defense is springing leaks, too. The other day it had been NelsonAgholor posting a 6/110/1 stat line. Thursday, both wide receiver Amari Cooper (7/101/1)and tight end David Njoku (9/89/1) had big games.
No-one will probably confuse Mac Jones and Jacoby Brissettwith Joe Montana and Tom Brady. But both had success contrary to the Steelers. Withedge-rusher T.J. Watt sidelined by way of a torn pectoral muscle, Pittsburgh isgenerating close to no pass rush.
Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats
Jacoby Brissett was pressured on just 4 of 33 dropbacks in the Browns 29-17 victory on the Steelers, his lowest pressure rate faced (12.1%) in a casino game in his career.
That insufficient pressure is exposing the average group ofcornerbacks. And Pittsburgh has been slowly, methodically dismantled.
The Steelers are losing the third-down battle, converting ata significantly lower percentage than their opponent days gone by fourteen days. Theyare also losing the time-of-possession battle to the tune of almost 20 minutesthe last two games.
They aren’t being outplayed in a single facet of the overall game.Losing at one position. It’s everywhere. On both sides of the ball.
It didn’t take miss Tomlin to create it clear no bigchanges were coming for Week 4.
That wont make fans happy, but it’s hardly unexpected.Tomlin isn’t the type of coach which makes knee-jerk changes. The Steelersaren’t that sort of team.
Or possibly he realizes that pulling Trubisky or firing Canada,on some level, would you need to be re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Maybe heknows that Pittsburgh’s problems exceed Trubisky. And Canada. And theoffense.
Maybe he knows these Steelers certainly are a flawed team, andthose flaws are increasingly being exposed.
And perhaps he knows that streak of non-losing seasons is probablytoast.