The Steelers’ offense is a mess.
Pittsburgh’s supposedly revamped scheme with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada looks an awful lot like the impotent plan the Steelers employed down the stretch last year, unable to stretch the field with Ben Roethlisberger and an offensive line that has played poorly.
Despite the 1-2 start to the season, Canada isn’t ready to hit the panic button just yet.
“We’re gonna stick with what we’re doing,” Canada said Thursday, per the team’s official website. “Obviously, that’s not the answer and that’s not the sexy answer but we believe we’re on the right track. We’ve gotta get some cohesion up front. We’re working to get that, and that’s not an excuse. We’ve gotta produce right now, so we’re not running away from it or hiding from it. But we have to continue to do what we’re doing. We have to continue to put our guys in position to make plays which, until we win, when we win, we’re not doing that well enough.
“That falls on me but we’re not gonna try to reinvent the wheel. It’s fundamental football. Everybody’s doing the same stuff. It’s fundamental football. We have to be better and I have to be better.”
It’s fair for Canada to have faith his offense can turn it around, and there are plenty of weeks left to do so. But the results through three weeks have been a no-alibi sort of U-G-L-Y.
Pittsburgh’s offense ranks 28th in the NFL in scoring, dead last in rushing (despite the addition of first-round pick Najee Harris, who has been the Steelers best offensive player), 25 in total yards, T-22nd in big plays, T-26th in red zone, and 26th in yards per play.
The Steelers have enough weapons on the outside, and Harris runs powerfully when given any daylight at all. But Pittsburgh has two glaring problems: Big Ben looks toast, and the offensive line can’t block without holding.
Roethlisberger’s 79.0 passer rating in 2021 ranks 27th among 29 QBs with three starts. Entering Week 4, only rookies Trevor Lawrence (60.3) and Zach Wilson (51.6) had a lower passer rating.
Not only are the Steelers employing a quick pass offense that’s proven ineffective, when Big Ben tries to dial up the deep shot, he simply can’t hit the mark. His 34.1 passer rating on deep shots is second among qualifying QBs, ahead of only Mac Jones.
Are you sensing the theme yet? Roethlisberger is playing at the same level as rookie QBs whose heads are still spinning.
Roethlisberger playing behind an offensive line that’s struggled mightily to block a soul for the first three weeks, and has been hit with seven penalties, has the entire offense sputtering.
Canada’s play-calling has done Big Ben few favors. There is little creativity, fewer motions and exotic looks than were discussed this offseason. Instead, the passing attack has leaned chiefly on WR screens, and other bailout plays. In 2021, 26.9 percent of Roethlisberger’s targets have been thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the highest such rate in the NFL.
Canada didn’t blame the offensive line, but it’d be foolish to believe the issues aren’t affecting his play calling.
“I’m a big believer in everything’s up front, but I don’t want to say when we’re not having success that that’s why,” he said. “When you look at us, we’re just not clicking. I’ve said it a lot of times and it’s not gonna change, it’s 11 men doing their job.
“We’re just like here and there and everywhere. That’s not running away from our lack of what we’re doing. We’re not getting it done and I take that fully on me. We just gotta find a way to all be on the same page and execute at the same level at the same time. The line’s part of it but the wideouts, the tight ends, the backs, the quarterback, the play-caller, we all gotta be together.”
Sunday, Canada and the disappointing Steelers offense face off against a Packers defense that has also struggled for stretches this season — allowing 27.7 points per game (24th in the NFL). If Pittsburgh can’t move the ball in Week 4, it’ll be time to panic.
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