‘Pittsburgh Wasn’t Ready To Play’: Chris Long Critical Of Steelers’ Preparation, Inability To Adjust
Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin often likes to talk about the importance of his players “not warming up to it” in games in the NFL. That means coming out and being ready to go from the opening whistle.
That wasn’t exactly the case for the Steelers on Sunday in Cleveland on both sides of the football.
A timeout burned on the second play from scrimmage defensively because of too many men on the field due to communication issues, and then a lackluster first two plays from the offense pinned deep in its own end showed for NFL defensive end and current podcast host Chris Long that the Steelers simply weren’t ready to play.
Appearing on the latest episode of his podcast, “Green Light Podcast”, Monday, Long was critical of the Steelers and their performance early in the game.
“Pittsburgh wasn’t ready to play, and that’s the bottom line. Twelve men on the field on the second play, you gotta use the timeout. On the touchdown drive, you let [David] Njoku for an explosive, you let him out. You have a face mask,” Long said of the poor start from the Steelers on the road in a hostile environment in a big game. “The offense, you start the game off with the safety, you get bailed out. The second play, JOK [Cleveland linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah], I think it was, just runs through [Connor] Heyward in the crease there between the tackle and the tight end. Blows that play up.
“They’re just not ready to play. First and 10, you get a delay a game in the first half.”
That’s a couple of times now that the Steelers haven’t exactly been ready to play right from the jump. That goes back to the game against the Houston Texans in Week Four when the Steelers came out soft and slow and got blown out. Though they weren’t blown out Sunday in Cleveland, the start was rather embarrassing as one team got up for the game, while the other appeared to be warming up to it.
Once the Steelers warmed up to it, they didn’t make any adjustments.
That was clear in the passing game as Cleveland ran a ton of zone, confusing the Steelers, who were preparing for more man coverage. Add to the fact that the Browns seemed to know what was coming before the snap, it led to a very difficult day for Pittsburgh.
Long was critical of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, too.
“The offensive scheme, Kyle, there are games like the Jacksonville game and I think Steelers Depot pulled me saying, it’s not Matt Canada’s fault. And people took it to, to mean that, in general, it’s not Matt Canada’s fault. It’s not Matt Canada’s fault every week. It’s Matt Canada’s fault this week,” Long added, according to video via the show’s YouTube Page. “It’s Matt Canada’s fault this week because like, there were no adjustments. Kenny Pickett talked about that after the game. … They knew their plays. And what I’m about to tell you confirms that Kyle, because the Browns play a little bit more zone. Okay? Like they switched it up quarter to quarter.
“Take the second and 11 swing pass early in the game. If you remember this, they ran trips to one side. They run the swing pass out there. They’re thinking those three receivers are gonna clear it out because these guys are probably in man. But even if you’re in zone, these guys shouldn’t be that quick to trigger to this play. And the slot defender is taking a step to make this play before Kenny Pickett even has the snap.”
Long also cited instances where the Browns’ defenders were running in motion before Steelers players even started to go in motion, though that hasn’t shown up on tape — yet.
Previously, Long stated that the players needed to execute coming out of the Jacksonville game, which we wrote about here, providing the correct context after a game in which players failed to make the plays that were there in the loss to the Jaguars. That wasn’t the case against Cleveland on Sunday. Nothing was really there, aside from a few plays.
But the lack of adjustments from the coaching staff Sunday, especially offensively, was rather damning. The Browns did a good job of disguising things pre-snap and post-snap, confusing the Steelers and quarterback Kenny Pickett. Throughout the game, the second-year quarterback was awful. It was the worst performance of his career, full stop.
Coaching didn’t help him find answers against a great defense, though.
Najee Harris was frustrated after the game, and rightfully so. The entire offense was frustrated. Just 10 points and 249 yards of total offense, a fourth straight game passing for less than 200 yards in a game, too. The run game might be improving, but the passing game is regressing, and regressing hard.
Even with Canada on the sidelines making communication easier, the passing game has struggled to get into gear. The quarterback looks worse week after week, receivers are frustrated, and things simply aren’t getting any better.