Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin vowed following this past Sunday's 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots that dropped the Steelers to 1-1 that he would "exercise appropriate patience" after fans at Acrisure Stadium booed starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and chanted the name of rookie signal-caller Kenny Pickett.
Trubisky will begin the "Thursday Night Football" game at the division-rival Cleveland Browns under center even though he'll enter that contest 32nd out of 33 eligible quarterbacks with an average of 5.1 yards per pass attempt this season. During Thursday's edition of the ESPN "Get Up" program, former NFL player and current analyst Damien Woody blamed Pittsburgh's recent offensive struggles more on the team's blockers than on Trubisky.
"As much as we sit here and talk about Mitchell Trubisky, they have bigger problems than Mitchell Trubisky. It's the offensive line up front," Woody explained. "Those guys can't move my son, OK? They can't move my 10-year-old son right now trying to run block. And that's a big problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers because the Pittsburgh Steelers, their identity, always, always, want to impose their physicality on you. They want to run the football.
"You've got a (2021) first-round pick in Najee Harris in the backfield, and you can't even use him to run the football. So we can sit here and talk about Mitchell Trubisky. That's fine. That's great. Great for television. But the problem is the offensive line."
Harris rushed for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns on 307 carries his rookie season but averaged just 2.9 yards per attempt over the first two games of this month. For what it's worth, though, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson (h/t Steelers Depot) somewhat praised Pittsburgh's offensive line for its efforts after the loss to New England.
"The Steelers' line is still very difficult to fairly evaluate because the entire offense looks designed to prevent them from ever having to pass block for a significant period of time," Monson noted. "The entire line has allowed just seven total pressures, but that comes with the aforementioned caveat. As run-blockers, only Chukwuma Okorafor has an above-average grade. Cleveland presents the obvious challenge of (All-Pro pass-rusher) Myles Garrett, but the rest of their defensive front is far less formidable."
All of the above is well and good, but the harsh truth of the matter is that Tomlin theoretically would have a few extra days after Thursday night to get Pickett ready to face the New York Jets in the Week 4 home game on Oct. 2 if Trubisky fails to impress in downtown Cleveland. Fair or not, Trubisky may be playing for his job against a Browns team that suffered a devastating loss to none other than the Jets this past Sunday.