Column | Stop trying to place blame, the Steelers just aren’t a great team


AP Photo/David Richard

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) is sacked by Cleveland Browns’ Jacob Phillips (50) and Myles Garrett (95) during the second half of an NFL football game in Cleveland on Thursday, Sept. 22.

By Dalton Coppola, Sports Editor

The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered one of their worst losses in over three decades, falling to the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills. Naturally, Steelers fans and media took to Twitter in an attempt to place blame for the Steelers’ skid to 1-4. Some say the players quit once they went down early. Others say head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t have his team ready to go. Many went after offensive coordinator Matt Canada for ineffective offense.

It’s hard to believe that grown men whose lives depend on their weekly performance stopped trying. Tomlin is revered as one of the NFL’s best and well-respected coaches in the entire league. Canada is harder to defend and his lack of creative play-calling is frustrating, but the issues go well beyond one player or coach.

Maybe, just maybe, the 2022 Steelers just aren’t that good — an issue that goes well beyond the head coach.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, yes. It’s not something I like typing, it’s not something I like publicizing and it’s certainly not something I want to admit. This town thrives on the Steelers and their success. But this year just isn’t their year. 

It’s a feeling that Steelers fans aren’t accustomed to, either. Mike Tomlin has coached the Steelers since 2007. Since taking over, the Steelers have never had a losing season. Unless they turn it around quickly, it looks like this 15-year streak is coming to an end.

There are issues riddled throughout the roster. Linebackers Devin Bush and Myles Jack have shown flashes of greatness, then looked lost on the very next play. Then on the second level, the Steelers’ lack of depth is a glaring issue. Safety Terrell Edmunds missed the game against the Bills with an injury and the Bills exposed backup Tre Norwood every chance they could.

Even the starters in the secondary, besides safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, have played poorly. Opposing teams have converted 46.58% of third-downs this season, placing them at No. 26 in the league. From missed tackles on the outside to blown coverages, the secondary hasn’t done much to help this glaring weakness.

Outside of rookie George Pickens, the wide receivers haven’t played well enough at all. Diontae Johnson inked a lucrative contract extension this offseason and has not played up to his standards thus far. He’s dropped a few balls this year and just hasn’t lived up to that big contract. At six foot four, Chase Claypool should win jump balls, dominate smaller defensive backs and excel in one-on-one situations. He doesn’t. The third-year receiver is missing the mark too, leaving the quarterbacks without reliable options.

Even second-year running back Najee Harris isn’t performing the way fans want him to. The former first-round pick has shown how talented he is. But this year, he’s not hitting holes, he’s not running with the same vindication he once did and he’s struggling to block in the passing game.

This is also the first season that Tomlin doesn’t have a future NFL Hall of Famer playing quarterback for him. After Ben Roethlisberger hung it up after the 2021-22 season, the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round to compete for playing time.

After three straight losses, Tomlin officially named Pickett the starting quarterback before the game against the Bills last week.

While Pickett failed to score a touchdown, overall he played well. But he’s still a rookie. He won’t magically fix all of the Steelers’ offensive woes. Pickett is the quarterback of the future, but his growth is a process — not something that happens over the course of one week.

The grocery list of concerns goes on and on, not to mention the plethora of injuries. Putting the blame entirely on Tomlin is a lazy opinion. Sure, should the Steelers maybe take a different approach to games given their 1-4 record? Absolutely. But it isn’t Tomlin’s job to execute the game.

This team isn’t built to compete with teams like the Bills. The talent is clustered, with a few elite level players playing with a lot of sub-average to average players behind them. The Steelers just don’t have the right players to compliment their best players like Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, Fitzpatrick, Pickett and Pickens.

This organization has not drafted effectively. The coaches have not coached well. The players have not played well. At every level, this organization has fallen short of the standard these past few seasons.

Steelers fans are in for a long year, but the issues go far beyond one person. Stop looking for someone to blame — you’ll torture yourself.