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How much will defensive game planning factor into the Steelers offensive success?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 preseason offense, particularly the first unit, did all that could be asked. Scoring five touchdowns on five offensive drives, there wasn’t much holding the unit back against any of their three preseason opponents.

But we are still talking about the preseason.

While some fans may want to dismiss what the Steelers first offense did in August, others are fully expecting it to show up in the same way come Week 1 and beyond. As it is with many things, the most likely spot of where the Steelers offense will land at the beginning of the 2023 regular season is somewhere in the middle.

For those who think the Steelers offense will not see the type of success they did in the preseason, their most used line generally includes the phrase “vanilla defense.” While this is true with most NFL teams during the preseason, the complexity of things they are running is not necessarily the same as what teams would see during the regular season ue to an extended number of moving parts who participate in the games.

But more than complexity, the biggest factor the Steelers offense will have to overcome during the regular season is facing a team that is specifically game planning to stop what they do best.

It was exciting to see the Steelers offense do things they had not done in 2022. Things such as using the middle of the field, scoring from outside the red zone, and having splash plays with the running game are probably the best examples of something fans are looking to see in the weeks to come. But once the Steelers opponents are specifically looking at what they do, will these things continue to happen?

When it comes to looking at specific players, the majority of this responsibility when it comes to going against a team that is specifically game playing against your offense will fall on quarterback Kenny Pickett. George Pickens will continue to make George Pickens-type catches regardless if they are specifically defending him in a certain way. Diontae Johnson will continue to get separation against his opponent much like he has done throughout his career. The offensive line will likely have to make adjustments from a specific game-planning perspective in both run blocking and pass blocking, but Kenny Pickett will have to not only be affected by the blocking of the linemen as well as his decision making when it comes to the coverage.

There are a number of people, not necessarily Steelers fans as this can be seen with some in the media, who don’t believe in Kenny Pickett going into his second season. Is it his ability when it comes to delivering the football, or is it the mental part of his game, making proper decisions, and judging risk/reward? While Pickett has shown the ability through the preseason, taking on an opponent who is trying to disguise things specifically tailored around him will be the ultimate test for the young quarterback and, by extension, the Steelers offense.

Kenny Pickett has shown the NFL what he can do in just five drives of the preseason. Teams should be taking his abilities seriously when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The biggest question now, which is one that will ultimately not be answered until the Steelers take the field during the regular season, is if Ken Pickett continues his success now that teams are specifically targeting his and the rest of the offense’s perceived weaknesses.

 

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