After a last-gasp loss to a Cleveland Browns team led by Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 6-4 and at risk of falling behind in the NFL's most competitive division. Currently, Pittsburgh sits third in the division, one game behind Cleveland and one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals.
On paper, the Steelers have a strong enough squad that you'd expect them to make the postseason. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL, led by a legitimate MVP candidate in T.J. Watt, and they have unearthed arguably the league's most formidable running back tandem.
However, the Steelers haven't convinced on a week-to-week basis because of an offense that ranks 28th in the league in scoring and yardage. The offense has been undoing a lot of the great work on the defensive end. Most specifically, the passing attack has been to blame, rating 27th in the NFL in terms of net yards per pass attempt (5.1). It's hard to be a force in the modern NFL with an anemic passing attack.
Plenty of the blame fell on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who drew the ire of Steelers fans from the get-go. Canada's quizzical playcalling, especially at key moments in games, has proven costly in the standings. His unimaginative offensive scheme has held back some of the Steelers skill position players, especially the wide receivers.
Now that Canada is out the door, there is hope among Steelers fans that one of the league's bottom-five offenses will improve. With players like George Pickens, Jaylen Warren, Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, and Pat Freiermuth, there is talent on this roster.
Steelers firing Matt Canada leaves no excuses for Kenny Pickett
However, with Canada out the door, much of the pressure on the Steelers will be focused on a different man. Without Canada available as the scapegoat, a lot will fall on the shoulders of second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has struggled to challenge defenses down the field and make the most of the skill position players he has.
Maybe a new philosophy on offense is what Pickett needs to succeed. He wasn't a first-round pick out of Pitt for no reason. However, after posting more interceptions than touchdowns in his rookie season, Pickett hasn't exactly taken a step forward in his sophomore campaign with another sub-80 QB Rating and an even lower completion percentage.
Pickett is still young, and he can't answer for the fact that the Steelers chose to pick him in the first round. That said, there is a lot of expectation around the Steelers every year because of the standard of excellence this organization has set.
Pickett will be expected to take care of the football, keep defenses honest, and help Johnson and Pickens get into position to make plays. If he can't do that and the Steelers fall behind in the postseason race, the team may have to reconsider Pickett's ability to be the answer.
Remember, with players like CJ Stroud having immediate success under center, young quarterbacks are under even more pressure to get it right in their first two seasons.