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Steelers Offense Should Be Fired Up After Week 1

Editor’s note: In Week 1 of the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 32-25. After reviewing the game, former Steelers coach Bill Cowher gave us his thoughts — specifically on the battle between quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky, rookie Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph.

 

We saw some pretty good grades all-around for the offense. I think they should be all fired up after Saturday night.

I think what you saw with all three quarterbacks was a job well done. And I think for (coordinator) Matt Canada, it was an endorsement of what he’s trying to do offensively — certainly, with the running game and also with the quarterback under center, a lot more than we’ve seen in the past with Ben Roethlisberger. 

I thought they all did a very good job. George Pickens stood out as a receiver, and if you think about him paired up with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool — that’s a pretty formidable set of receivers. 

Pat Freiermuth — when he comes back — is a quality tight end and a great target, particularly for a new QB in a system like this.

The Quarterbacks

I thought Mitch Trubisky started off and played very well. He made good decisions and looked athletic outside the pocket. I think that Mason Rudolph looked very good when he came back in. And what Pickett did in the second half of that game, I think, proved what he can be.

When you look at the three QBs — and I’m not sure what the plan is for Week 2 — there’s a lot to be said for what the starter does. You think about a guy coming in off the bench, he has a chance to see the defense, he has a chance to get a feel for the flow of the game, and he sees the first quarterback go in there. So coming off the bench is another element that you have to take into account. Starting is another one — you set the tempo.

I thought Trubisky set the tempo very well in that game on Saturday. We saw his ability to get outside the pocket and make some plays. We also saw this with Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett in the second half of that game.

I would like to see another guy starting, to see if he can continue setting the tempo and see if he is the guy. But Mitch is going to be the guy that’s going to start again (in Week 2 at Jacksonville on Saturday), and I thought he did a very good job (in Week 1).

Final Thoughts

I think what Pickens showed you is a big guy, tall target with great awareness on the field. I thought what he could do with his feet was pretty good for a young player, particularly when talking about a player going from college in his first year to the pros. You only have to get down one foot in college; it’s two feet in the pros. I thought he looked like a veteran making that touchdown catch. Very impressive; I thought it was a very good start for him.

With the interior line, I’d like to see them play a little bit better, but I think the tackles did a very good job. That’s what training camp is for. That’s what going against a new opponent each week is for.

I think the Steelers are still accessing the situation but I think what you saw overall were some pretty good grades all around for the offense.

 

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Bill Cowher: Who Can Take Command in the Pittsburgh Huddle?

For the first time in 17 years, there is an open quarterback competition within the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. Someone has to take command inside the Pittsburgh huddle this season—it’s that simple: Who is the leader?

The Steelers offense evolved from when I started there, thanks in large part to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Now, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who has been with the team since 2020, has a new challenge and will have great impact on the franchise.

The staff will evaluate who looks the most comfortable, who can be the most consistent, and each guy will get their opportunity to impress in August.

All three should have reps with the first string in the exhibition games so the staff can evaluate them in the first quarter, and in the two-minute offense. By the end of that third preseason game, I’d expect the staff to make their decision.

There is no denying that Mason Rudolph has the most experience in Canada’s system. Ideally, he, or veteran Mitchell Trubisky wins the job. They understand the grind of the season, the preparation that is required to succeed, the different looks they’ll get from defenses. I think first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett will be very good in the long run, but ideally, you bring him along slowly and confidently.

Once you name your starting quarterback, the job isn’t done. If you are Canada and head coach Mike Tomlin, you need to have a backup plan in place. If the offense stalls, or you’re forced to make a change, you need a guy who can step in and immediately provide a spark.

For now, the question remains: Who will take command inside the Pittsburgh huddle?

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