We hoped that by the time we entered Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have found their groove on offense. Sadly, this hasn't been the case. In fact, Mike Tomlin's team has scored fewer points over his last three games than he did in the first three games to open the season.
If this team is making improvements on offense, they're doing it at such a slow rate that the data literally can't decipher between what they did early in the year and what they are doing right now. On the season, Pittsburgh is managing just 273.5 yards per game (31st), 17.2 points per game (26th), and 4.7 yards per play (27th), per Team Rankings. The Steelers are also 28th in offense EPA.
One of the biggest issues this season has been their remarkably slow starts. This has been one of the few things on offense you can count on week in and week out. Here's a breakdown of the points the Steelers have scored in each quarter of action entering Week 8 of the 2023 season:
What jumps out immediately is just how ice-cold this team has been in the first quarter of games. Despite playing 6 full first quarters this season (which equates to 90 minutes of action), the Pittsburgh Steelers have mustered up just 14 points during this time.
This statistic becomes even more concerning when you break it down further. Back in Week 2, Alex Highsmith picked off Browns' QB Deshaun Watson and returned it for a touchdown. These 7 points are factored into the 14 total points that have been scored in the first quarter of games this year.
If you take this away, the Steelers offense has scored just 7 points over 90 total minutes of first-quarter action this year. This equates to just 1.16 average offensive points scored in the first quarter this year.
Matt Canada is largely to blame for Steelers' first-quarter fails
When dividing blame, always picture it like a slice of pie. It deserves to be passed around, but some people deserve a bigger slice of the blame than others. While it's easy for fans of every team to simply throw the blame on their offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers fans have a legitimate gripe with Matt Canada.
I'll give credit where it is due: I liked several things I saw from Canada in recent weeks. He's starting to incorporate more play-action into the offense, and he's finally taking advantage of plays that can produce yards after the catch like quick slants and posts. However, when we look at the severe struggles in the first quarter, it's hard not to point the finger at the OC.
These struggles stem far beyond just a lack of points scored. The first-quarter offense of the Steelers has been downright abysmal in every measurable area. Here's a look at their first-quarter splits from Pro Football Reference:
In terms of their adjusted yards per pass attempt, yards per rush attempt, passer rating, and yardage gained, you won't find a worse team in the league in first-quarter action than the 2023 Steelers. This is the time of the game where Matt Canada should have a script ready to go and he should be able to engineer scoring drives that catch the defense off guard.
Instead, the first quarter has been by far the worst quarter of play for the Steelers. Their painfully slow starts in each game often makes it hard for them to gain any sort of momentum -- which is probably the biggest reason why it seems like it takes all the way until the fourth quarter for Kenny Pickett and company to warm up.
Mike Tomlin has made it very clear that he has no plans to fire Matt Canada, and if we are being honest with ourselves, he's not losing his job at this point. However, somebody needs to be held accountable for the atrocity we have seen from the Steelers in the first quarter this year. This needs to change immediately.