3 different midseason perspectives of the 2023 Steelers
The 2023 NFL season will reach its midpoint following the conclusion of Week 9 this Monday night following the Chargers and Jets game. While some teams have played nine games as others have only had eight along with a bye week, the best way to figure out the midpoint is based on the overall season. With 18 weeks, the midway point is after Week 9.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers playing on Thursday night this week, both them and the Tennessee Titans get a few extra days for their fan base to analyze their midseason results.
When it comes to looking at where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand, it is very easy to paint a picture on either end of the spectrum as to how things are going. How one feels about this team is likely up to how they choose to feel.
What do I mean by this? I’m going to give three different breakdowns of this Pittsburgh Steelers team through the first nine weeks: The bright side, the dark side, and the happy medium. There may be some other arguments for each of these, but these are the ones that I’m thinking of at the moment.
The Bright Side
If I were to tell Pittsburgh Steelers fans in August that the team was 5–3 through the first eight games compared to the 2–6 they were in 2022, I’m certain the overwhelming majority of fans would take it.
Not only did the Steelers find a way to a winning record through their first eight games, they did so without the services of Dinotae Johnson on offense and Cam Hayward on defense for a good portion of the first half of the year. Johnson got knocked out at halftime of the opening game and returned following the Steelers bye week and played in the last three games. Captain Cam was also knocked out in Week 1, had surgery, and returned for the final game of the first half of the season. The Steelers also did not have the services of Pat Freiermuth for four games and after one more on the Reserve/iInjured List (IR), he will be eligible to return. Minkah Fitzpatrick missed their final game on the first half but was not placed on IR so the hope for his return sooner than later is reasonable.
Kenny Pickett was knocked out at two different games but has yet to miss a start. Both of the games Pickett did not finish were losses by the Steelers making Pickett 5–1 in games that he both started and finished. Additionally, Pickett has a positive touchdown to interception ratio and is averaging only 0.5 interceptions per game which is tied for the third fewest of quarterbacks who have started at least seven games. Pickett has also come through in the clutch and has three game-winning drives so far this season.
The Steelers defense is coming up with all kinds of splash plays as they have been averaging more than three sacks per game and two takeaways per game. With the Steelers offense taking care of the ball, the Steelers have double the takeaways compared to turnovers.
And for special teams, Pressley Harvin is averaging 46.2 yards per punt despite missing two games where Brad Wing, his replacement, averaged 45.0. Additionally, Chris Boswell has been perfect this year inside of 60 yards and has a 57-yard field goal to his credit. Boswell’s only miss so far this season was a 61-yard kick at the end of a half.
Knowing how the Steelers finished the 2022 season, putting themselves in a much better position with three more wins at the midway point this year means a second half run doesn’t have the low margin of error that the team saw in 2022. If the Steelers can come on over the last nine games like they did last season, they will be in a great position for the playoffs.
The Dark Side
It doesn’t matter what this team’s record is, they are not playing good football. Going into Week 9, the Steelers had the 30th ranked offense and the 30th ranked defense. They are giving up 133 yards rushing each game while only averaging 90 themselves.
The Steelers have set a record in NFL history but not for a good reason. They’re the only team through eight games to be out gained in yards each game and yet have a winning record. While the Steelers are finding a way to win, it simply isn’t sustainable and isn’t something that would give them success for a big postseason run.
The Steelers offense is an embarrassment as they have only scored 14 points in the first quarter all season with half of them coming in their most recent game. And even when it looked as if the Steelers were turning the corner and scored a touchdown on their opening drive, they followed it up with two 3 & outs, which has become the norm in the first half of the game this year.
Kenny Pickett isn’t getting the job done for the Steelers. While he’s been good in the fourth quarter, he’s been terrible otherwise as he only has six touchdowns on the season and his averaging only 183 passing yards per game. His quarterback rating is barely above 80 and his tendency to miss open receivers is continually killing drives.
The Steelers defense isn’t at all what it should be. Teams are still running the ball at will and the Steelers can’t get off the field on third and long. The Steelers just lost their green dot in Cole Holcomb for the season and who knows when Minkah Fitzpatrick will get back into the lineup.
Anybody who is believing in this team right now is crazy. There’s no way they could pull off any kind of postseason run with this style football. While it sometimes works against weaker opponents, the best teams in the NFL will be too much for the Steelers.
The Happy Medium
The 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that is still continuing to find itself. While they struggle on both offense and defense at times, the biggest thing that they have managed to do is find a way to win five of their eight games. Comparing them to last season, the Steelers have set themselves up much better to stay in the mix down the stretch.
But can this continue? That is the big question moving forward. Last year the Steelers made significant improvements as the season went on, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t do the same this year. Just looking at their numbers, there is so much room for improvement!
If the Steelers think this style football is good enough and that’s how they’re going to succeed over the second half of the season, they’re going to get a rude awakening. But if the Steelers can continue to grow and figure itself out while the defense keeps them in games, the Steelers won’t have the need for as many fourth-quarter comebacks unless it’s against top competition.
The offense has been “just off” on plays to extend drives where the play was there but the execution was off. If the Steelers can start connecting on more of those plays as the season rolls on, the numbers will improve greatly. Fans have seen what the Steelers can do just by looking at the fourth quarter in their comeback games, all they need to do is execute in this manner more often.
This team is far from perfect and not in a good place at this time to think they can make a noise in the playoffs. But having five wins under their belt already, the Steelers should not be complacent with how they’re doing things and should feel the sense of urgency they did last season, get things figured out, and be a team that is on the rise heading into the month of January. Now all they have to do is do it, and the sooner it gets going the better off there chances will be.
So were these fairly accurate descriptions of how fans can be looking at this team at this moment? Where do you put yourself? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.