The Pittsburgh Steelers were pitiful offensively in Week 1. Here’s why the numbers are every bit as concerning as the eye test in their first game.
I remember watching the wheels fall off an aging Ben Roethlisberger last season and thinking that the offense couldn’t get much worse. We would be sorely mistaken. While Mitch Trubisky had a few flashes in his first start as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the offense against the Bengals in Week 1 was abysmal from the gate.
Despite the defense continually putting them in favorable situations with short fields thanks to their five takeaways, Matt Canada’s offense was only able to turn these opportunities into 16 points in the game (13 points in regulation and 7 points came from a Minkah Fitzpatrick pick-six).
On the afternoon, Trubisky averaged a mere 5.1 yards per attempt on 38 passes, while Najee Harris couldn’t muster up more than 2.3 yards per carry on 11 rushes — half of his production coming on one attempt.
While boxscore stats from individual offensive players were far less than impressive, Pittsburgh’s efficiency was every bit as bad as it seemed. The Steelers managed just 13 first downs compared to 32 for Cincinnati, according to ESPN, and their 4.4 yards per play was hard to stomach.
However, their conversion rate was the most concerning. Among all of the teams that squared off on Sunday in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers were dead last in conversion rate, according to Pro Football Focus’s Timo Riske:
While five NFL teams this week converted third and fourth downs 81 to 89 percent of the time, the Steelers were all the way at the bottom of the list at just 52 percent — lower than the Dallas Cowboys who managed just 3 points against the Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football.
Though the Steelers did manage to convert 20 percent of their first-down plays into a new set of downs, they were horrific on second down and the second-lowest in the league on third down. Combine this with the fact that they didn’t attempt a single fourth down play, and Pittsburgh, collectively, had the lowest offensive conversion rate in the league in Week1.
How can the Steelers improve their stagnant offense?
This offense was pretty abysmal all the way around. Remarkably, the offensive line didn’t seem to be a glaring weakness. In pass protection, they held up their end of the bargain, but poor route combinations and execution from Trubisky resulted in a dismal passing game again the Bengals. When run-blocking the Steelers OL was far from perfect, but after watching the all-22 film, there were some holes created that were missed by the running backs.
This is at least a somewhat encouraging sign. I expected the OL to look much worse than they did. At the end of the day, Trubisky was sacked just one time. However, if this offense wants to improve, they need to start getting more aggressive.
Running a scripted, vanilla offense isn’t going to take the Steelers anywhere in 2022. The coaching staff should know this. It also limits Pittsburgh’s offensive upside when they rely on gadget plays and quick passes.
They must get more aggressive through the air — even if this comes at the expense of taking a few more sacks per game or even throwing an interception. What’s the sense of taking care of the football if you can only score 16 offensive points? (And that’s with the added period in overtime).
Trubisky simply wasn’t connecting down the field and his shots were limited. This allowed the Bengals to stack the box and take the run away, as they forced Trubisky to beat them vertically — something he couldn’t do in Week 1.
Fortunately, the Steelers escaped with the win thanks to an outstanding defensive performance. However, this offense that has somehow reached a new low to begin the 2022 season must be better moving forward if Pittsburgh is to have a chance at the playoffs this year.