The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the throes of a losing season, but they can quickly turn it around by next year if we do these three things.
The 2022 Steelers are facing something that Mike Tomlin has never had to face in his previous fifteen seasons as the Head Coach — a losing season. At the time of this discussion, we are ‘upside down’ with respect to the win-loss record. Could we go on a winning streak to pull it out when all is said and done?
Of course, anything is possible, but with the way we are playing right now, I think the chances of ending the 2022 season on the ‘plus side of the ledger’ are slim, and probably none. Again, anything is possible, but I just don’t see it happening.
If the Steelers do wind up with a losing season, I would frankly expect changes to be made. These changes may range from subtle to extreme, but since we are not an organization that panics when things don’t go as planned, I would expect changes to be in the middle of the spectrum.
Here is a change that should be made on offense.
The Steelers must find a new offensive coordinator
I know I sound like a ‘broken record’ but Matt Canada is simply not performing up to the expectations that come with being an NFL offensive coordinator. Regardless of how this season shakes out, I don’t think it would be wise to retain Canada in 2023.
I realize that’s easy for me to say as I would not have the responsibility of finding a new OC, but I also realize that retaining Canada would be detrimental to the development of Kenny Pickett. Despite some rumblings that the Steelers may look to draft a QB in 2023, I don’t think we would waste a high-round pick on a QB.
I can envision a scenario where we would draft a QB in the later rounds, but with so many other pressing needs, I just don’t think it would be prudent or necessary to draft a QB in say the first three rounds. If we need depth at the QB position, I would take a flyer on someone in say the fifth round.
Regardless of what transpires this season, one thing is certain, in my opinion. We need an offensive coordinator whose scheme works well in the NFL. Canada’s scheme is college-esque. If Tomlin does move on from Canada, I think he would go the route of hiring a former NFL head coach who is an offensive guru and can turn things around quickly.
As we sit here today, the Steelers offense is ranked in the bottom quartile in almost every significant category. I don’t see that suddenly improving exponentially over the back half of the 2022 season.
Here is a change that should be made on defense.
The Steelers defense lacks consistency and playmaking
What ails the Steelers offense is similar to what ails the defense. I would argue that we have more playmakers on offense than we do on defense. For a defense that was once called the ‘Steel Curtain’, it is frankly upsetting at times to watch the current iteration play.
We lack consistency and we lack playmaking, plain and simple. We need to draft and/or sign players who have the ability to make plays consistently and who can make big plays when big plays are needed.
Like Canada, Teryl Austin is not performing up to the level of expectations. The defense ranks in the bottom quartile in many categories, but what is most alarming about the defense right now is the inability to generate consistent pressure. This is leaving our DBs exposed, and it shows in the statistics.
As we sit here today, the defense is ranked thirty-first in passing yards allowed per game, according to ESPN. That is awful. Some would argue that the run defense is looking pretty good right now with the fifteenth-best ranking; however, that is a direct result of the porous pass defense. Why run the ball against us when you can throw it all over the yard?
What is also alarming to me is the fact that Tomlin made his hay, so to speak, on the defense side of the ball before becoming our head coach. That begs this question: Why is the defense struggling so mightily right now? I wish I knew.
Here is a holistic change that should be made.
The Steelers must be objective in assessing every facet of the team
I realize we have discussed this previously, but as we sit here today, the Steelers are in unchartered territory. The offense is not good. The defense is not much better. Tomlin promoted both Canada and Austin. Objectively speaking, those two decisions are not looking too good right now.
I am not suggesting that replacing both coordinators would solve the Steelers issues, but I think it would be a step in the right direction. The fact that Tomlin did not move on from Canada during the bye-week is very telling to me. Tomlin seemed reticent to make what would perhaps be considered a sweeping change but at the expense of what?
Again, looking at this objectively, since Tomlin is a defense person, maybe he was concerned about whom he would replace Canada. I understand that. I also understand that is difficult to make significant changes mid-season.
Making changes after the season is a whole other discussion. Let’s assume the Steelers finish with a losing record and Tomlin or the front office or both decide to move on from both coordinators.
Whose decision will it be to find new coordinators? One would assume that would be Tomlin’s decision, but I have to think that given how poorly we are playing right now, maybe it would be suggested to have Tomlin partner with someone in the front office to make those decisions.
Personally, I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Collective decisions are generally better than unilateral decisions. Other decisions that must be made involve the draft and free agency.
We could talk all day long about the draft and about free agency, but here is what I will say about both topics: First, we have not drafted well of late and that needs to change immediately. For an organization that once drafted four Hall of Fame players in the first five rounds, we seem to be losing our ‘mojo’ when it comes to identifying stellar talent.
We also need to play our draftees where they are best suited. Case in point is Kevin Dotson. I believe Dotson has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowl right guard, but he is currently playing left guard. I would argue he is playing out of position. Whose decision was it to have Dotson play on the left side rather than on the side where he played in college and is probably better suited to play?
As far as free agency is concerned, we need to ‘go all in’ by signing top-tier free agents as well as signing significant role players. We can no longer sign free agents who will accept what we offer, as has seemingly been the case.
We could go on and on and on, but I will wrap up our discussion by saying this: One bad season will not define Tomlin or the Steelers. It is what Tomlin and the Steelers do to ‘right the ship’ that will define them both.