Mike Tomlin’s team entered Thursday night’s clash with the Tennessee Titans near the bottom of the league in both the offensive and defensive rankings. Most of the attention for the team’s erratic play this season has focused on the offensive side of the ball. Coordinator Matt Canada has been under fire seemingly from the day he arrived in the Steel City.
The criticism has been warranted. Prior to the prime-time clash with Mike Vrabel’s team, Pittsburgh’s offensive unit had totaled nine touchdowns in seven contests. Only the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders were averaging fewer total yards per game. Canada’s unit was 28th in the NFL in rushing and 25th in passing. Only the Giants, New England Patriots and Raiders were averaging fewer points per game.
Now scoring two touchdowns and a total of 20 points doesn’t evoke memories of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown tormenting opposing defenses. However, there were definitely some things to take from the four-point triumph.
Canada was on the sidelines last night instead of in the booth. It is perhaps too early to say that made a difference in the team’s performance on his side of the football. However, what is extremely interesting is the fact that the Steelers ran 60 offensive plays in the game, 30 running (including a game-ending kneel down) and 30 passing. Pittsburgh rushed for a season-high 166 yards (the previous high was 114 yards in the loss at Houston).
Quarterback Kenny Pickett was not sacked in the four-point win. It was the first time in eight games this season the team did not allow a quarterback trap. Rookie Broderick Jones was the new starting right tackle and the team took advantage of his play. Pickett was indeed erratic but in what has become a familiar pattern, got better as the game unfolded. Tomlin’s team wound up needing to keep the Tennessee offense off the field as much as possible. Titans’ rookie quarterback Will Levis burned the Steelers’ defense for seven pass plays of more than 20 yards.
At 5-3, there’s hardly any cause for celebration. It was easily the team’s most complete offensive showing of the season. It’s something to build on and nothing more. However, it could be much more if Tomlin’s offense can string a few more performances together like this.