Through three weeks of the 2022 NFL season, there’s been one word kicked around with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense to date, one that’s rather simple, yet seems so far out of reach. No, it’s not “Pickett” or anything like that.
Instead, it’s a simple word that many teams search for, but often come up short in finding, something the Steelers currently lack on the offensive side of the ball, which has draw some ire from players under second-year coordinator Matt Canada. That word? Indentity.
Who are you? What are your base concepts? What is your overall objective as an offense when stepping out onto the field, aside from scoring points?
Currently, many players on the offensive side of the football have no clue, especially third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool, who has been rather open and honest about some of the struggles offensively, telling reporters earlier in the week that he doesn’t know if the Steelers’ offense has an identity.
“I don’t know if we have an identity. I think we’re still figuring that out,” Claypool said, according to ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
As frustrating as that might be to hear, or as frustrating as that might be because it’s true, the fact remains the Steelers offense doesn’t have an identity in the second season under Canada. That’s a major problem, at least for those outside of the organization.
They aren’t a run-heavy team that relies on duo or pin/pull like, say, the Browns. They aren’t a play-action heavy team like the Jets, whom they’ll face Sunday at 1 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium. It’s pretty puzzling overall that they don’t have an identity through 20 games of the Matt Canada era.
That said, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t view into having an identity at this point as a negative. Rather, he views it as an opportunity for the Steelers to have some “unseen advantages” in the developmental stage for the black and gold, he stated to Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola in a piece Sunday morning.
“Obviously, there are some positive components to it [having an identity]. You got good players and the things that they do routinely. The more you do it, the more you understand it, the more consistent it becomes,” Tomlin said, according to Steelers.com. “Forget the splash plays, I’m talking about the floor. You eliminate negativity. There’s also advantages of discovering your identity, whether it’s new players or new staffing, so you’re less predictable. You’re more of an open book in terms of the things that people have to minimize down in and down out.
“So obviously, there’s some positive advantages of having an identity. There are also probably some unseen advantages for being in development in that area.”
That’s certainly a take there from Tomlin.
On the surface, it makes some sense, as not having an identity makes it harder to prepare for on a down-by-down basis, as Tomlin points out. That can give the Steelers some advantages in-game for a play-calling standpoint. That said, the Steelers certainly haven’t used that to their advantage so far in the Matt Canada era.
In fact, the Steelers have scored just four offensive touchdowns in the first quarter of games in the 20-game Canada era.
Having an offensive identity would give the Steelers a strength, one that would allow them to build around and continue to hone in on throughout games. There’s a real advantage to having an identity and being very good at it. Ask the Browns. The Steelers offense, without an identity, feels like a rudderless ship, one that’s lost right now with no real end in sight.