The Pittsburgh Steelers upset the Bengals in Week 1, but the offense can’t keep leaning on the defense the way they did in their overtime victory.
I would have thought that stealing a road victory in Week 1 against a heated divisional rival and defending AFC North champions would have had me feeling overjoyed following the game. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Losing T.J. Watt for potentially the season with a pectoral injury against the Bengals didn’t seem like a good trade-off, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have a huge uphill battle ahead.
One of the most discouraging things about the Steelers win in the season-opener is what the defense had to do in order to make it happen. It took Pittsburgh being +5 in the turnover department to keep their head above water against Joe Burrow and company. Not only that, but Mike Tomlin’s team relied on a blocked extra point at the end of regulation and a missed chip-shot field goal in overtime to somehow secure the win.
While the defense performed as well as we could have asked, the offensive performance couldn’t have been more discouraging than what we saw on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. Despite their defense rewarding them with excellent field position time and again, a stagnant offense failed to capitalize.
The Steelers finished the game narrowly topping the Bengals 23-20 in overtime, but it required a defensive touchdown. The 16 offensive points they put up were incredibly underwhelming, and that includes the great starting field position they had to work with.
Steelers offense must take a big step forward quickly
It’s hard to point the finger at just one person for the lack of success on offense. On the ground, Najee Harris managed just 23 yards on 10 carries (2.3 yards per carry) before exiting the contest with a lower-leg injury. The offensive line simply struggled to create any running room against the Bengals.
The passing game was equally as hard to watch, as Mitch Trubisky averaged a dismal 5.1 yards per attempt — finishing the game with just 194 yards on 38 pass attempts, via ESPN stats. Apart from finding some success throwing to his tight ends, there wasn’t anything positive to note. When targeting receivers, Trubisky managed just 76 yards on 24 pass attempts (roughly 3.2 yards per attempt).
This is simply unacceptable. Trubiksy had a plethora of issues finding his receivers and was incredibly inefficient when trying to throw past the sticks. As a result, this offense finished dead last in the league on Sunday in offensive conversion percentage, via PFF’s Timo Riske.
It doesn’t help that Matt Canada had a very vanilla game plan when passing the football. Apart from a reverse-flee-flicker that went for one of the biggest gains of the day, Canada and Trubiksy couldn’t muster up much success on offense.
I know that this was Mitch Trubisky’s first meaningful game in a Steelers uniform and the offense needs some time to shake off the rust, but they can’t expect the defense to create this many takeaways each week and use them as a crutch. The offense needs to start pulling their weight very soon if Pittsburgh wants to find any success this season.