Three Takeaways From Steelers vs Patriots

September 22, 2022
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The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the New England Patriots in an AFC matchup at Acrisure Stadium. We look back and see what the cause for the outcome was, and what we can expect moving forward.

Steelers Short Play Kryptonite

An ongoing theme for the last two years has been the offensive coordinator calling short-yardage plays. Mitch Trubisky threw the football 33 times and of those 33 times, he completed the ball past 10+ yards 5 times. Through the first two weeks of the season, Pittsburgh’s offense currently ranks 30th in yards per play, 30th in yards per game, 32nd in passing yards per attempt, and 23rd in rushing yards per attempt. All bottom half in the league with no change in site.

Because of these short plays you notice that the Steelers mostly use the field on the outside of the numbers. If the ball is thrown over the middle you notice in the graphic below that it is just past the line of scrimmage. Just last week reporters asked why the middle of the field was not being used, quarterback play can also attribute to this but they have failed to put the players in the best positions to succeed early on.

Steelers passing vs Patriots week 2
Week 2 passes vs Patriots (Photo by NFL NextGenStats)

Offensive Line Limits The Offense

With everything said above I do believe the Steeler’s offensive line heavily caps what this team can do. Najee Harris ran the ball 15 times and only gained 5 yards or more on 2 of those runs. The Steelers have been known throughout their existence to emphasize the run game, most of the success of the offense relies on the run to set up play action for downfield throws. However, This offense has been miserable they have not gotten a run game going which in turn creates fewer downfield throws.

I do think that ultimately Trubisky getting the starting job played a huge part in how bad this offensive line truly is. Kenny Pickett is hopefully the future in Pittsburgh and they want to keep it that way without him getting hurt in his first season. With a lot being attributed to this offense and the offensive line, one thing must be said. The New England Patriots have notoriously been very good on the defensive side of the ball, this year they already rank in the top 10 of opponent yards per play.

T.J. Watt Hurt Is A Problem

Sunday vs the Patriots we saw the T.J. Watt effect on the defensive side of the ball, the QB pressure that we saw last week vs the Bengals was almost obsolete. Last week the Steelers had a total of 7 sacks, this week against the Patriots we did not see a single sack from the Steeler’s defense. In fact, with the 5 games T.J. Watt has been inactive for the Steelers only average 1.6 sacks per game.

The Steelers also saw a dip in tackles for loss (TFL) and QB hits, getting 1 TFL and 3 QB hits. Down from last week’s 9 TFLs and 11 QB hits. Thursday we got the news that T.J. Watt would be out a minimum of 4 games going to the injured reserve, the plan is closer toward six weeks of downtime. The next few weeks for the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking dim without the reigning Defensive Player of the year on the field.

Matters only get worse when the Pittsburgh Steelers turn around for a quick week against their rivals the Cleveland Browns on Thursday. It will be interesting to see the game plan Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada come up with, we will just be a few days removed from watching the Browns give up 31 points to the Joe Flacco-led Jets. One negative takeaway from all of this is that I don’t believe we will see Kenny Pickett anytime soon, they don’t want their future franchise quarterback put in harm’s way. While I do agree with it, a new game plan must be arranged so Mitch Trubisky can succeed in this offense even with the weakness of the offensive line.