After a hard-fought 17-10 victory against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers head into their bye week with a 3-2 record, leading the AFC North. Despite a rocky start to the season, they surprisingly find themselves in contention. The timing of this bye week couldn't be better, given the team's struggles. It's abundantly clear that significant changes are needed to enhance their chances of clinching the division title and securing a playoff spot.
First and foremost, it's crucial to address the starting lineups on both sides of the ball. Broderick Jones should take on the role of permanent left tackle moving forward, and the idea of shifting James Daniels to Center deserves consideration, especially given Mason Cole's underwhelming performance thus far. While the offensive line has clearly struggled, implementing these changes might provide the much-needed spark for the team moving forward.
Defensively, it's high time to demote Levi Wallace and promote Joey Porter Jr., who has shown promise with increased opportunities. Wallace's consistent struggles throughout the season have significantly hampered the defense. It's also the right time to start Desmond King in the slot.
Chandon Sullivan hasn't made enough impact plays to justify his starting role, and it's about time to see what King can bring to the table. Apart from these two lineup adjustments, the team is gradually regaining its health, and the return of Cam Heyward will be a significant boost to an already formidable front seven.
Changes are required for the Steelers to find success
Most importantly, it's evident that changes are needed within the coaching staff, especially in the case of Matt Canada. While his departure during the season appears unlikely, there is a pressing need for the offense to transition to more sophisticated NFL passing concepts.
While it may be challenging to implement changes during the season, these next two weeks are crucial for making additional installations, to whatever extent possible. The current playbook is overly simplistic and essentially high school-esque.
Though Diontae Johnson's return will undoubtedly provide a boost, the team must also focus on creating opportunities for other wide receivers to get open, generate yards after the catch, utilize the middle of the field, and establish a consistent running game.
The team was built on running the ball, and it's crucial to reclaim that identity from last year. The Steelers must avoid becoming one-dimensional, so initiating a strong running game early is essential. Get the run game going early and build off it with the play-action game. Play the Pittsburgh Steelers' brand of football that has always been preached.
To make the most of the season now, the focus should be on evaluating Kenny Pickett's potential and maximizing a roster that's built to win now. This requires the coaching staff to position him and other offensive players for success. Relying on the defense to bail out the offense week after week isn't sustainable.
As previously discussed, the suggested changes will not only benefit the offense but also the entire team. Although it won't be an easy task, the upcoming bye week presents a pivotal opportunity to make these adjustments and build momentum for the remainder of the season.