Mike Tomlin fields questions about Steelers offense’s predictability, Diontae Johnson’s lack of involvment
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin must have known the question was coming. In fact, a question alluding to Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt basically calling Pittsburgh’s offense predictable following Sunday’s game was the first question posed to Tomlin during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Following the Bengals’ 37-30 win, Pratt was asked how Cincinnati’s offense was able to hold the Steelers offense to just 139 yards in the second half after allowing 212 yards and 20 points in the first half.
“Just settling down,” Pratt told CBS Sports from the victorious locker room. “It was us giving them plays. We knew what they were going to do. They like to do the same plays over and over.”
“That’s what they say when when they’re having success, and they don’t say it when they’re not,” Tomlin said on Tuesday. “And so I don’t worry much about that. I focus on the things that are within our control. When I look at the tape, there were some repeat concepts, but Cincinnati was in some repeat concepts. And that’s football. … I don’t know that we were all that surprised by anything that they did offensively. So then it comes down to execution. And that’s where I like to keep our focus.
“We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to make makable plays. And that’s our goal. And so that’s where our focus is as we lean in on this week’s opportunity and less about some of the fodder that you speak of.”
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Tomlin agreed with a reporter who asked if better execution — thus leading to more big plays — could result in a larger menu of plays. If more big plays are occurring downfield, that would also help open things up for the running game and other areas of the offense.
It may also help open things up for Diontae Johnson, the Steelers’ Pro Bowl wideout who has yet to find the end zone through 10 games. Tomlin said that more big plays from Pittsburgh’s other playmakers, including rookie receiver George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth, can help create more opportunities for Johnson.
“Let’s be frank, okay. Diontae is the known commodity within the group, and so people are going to have an agenda to minimize his impact on the game, particularly in significant moments,” Tomlin said. “Possession down, red zone football. When you’ve got a guy that’s been a Pro Bowler, and really, he’s kind of the only one. You’ve got a young group, [so] that’s a component of it.”
The continued growth of Kenny Pickett is certainly a big factor in whether or not the Steelers offense is going to continue to show signs of growth during the season’s final seven games. While Pratt and Co. may find it predictable, Pittsburgh’s offense nevertheless found a way to score 30 points against one of the NFL’s better defensive units. The Steelers would have scored more points if not for a few missed opportunities in the second half as well as consecutive penalties that ended a golden scoring opportunity with the Steelers in Bengals territory and trailing by just four points early in the fourth quarter.
His record may not show it, but Pickett has shown considerable growth during his short time as the Steelers starting quarterback. Along with taking care of the football (he’s gone two games without a pick after throwing eight in his first five games), Pickett has made plays by using his mobility. In Sunday’s loss to the Bengals, Pickett recorded his highest passer rating of the year in a game that he played all four quarters. His performance drew postgame praise this past Sunday from counterpart Joe Burrow and veteran Bengals cornerback Eli Apple.
“He’s able to extend plays,” Apple told CBS Sports when asked about Pickett. “Made some big time throws under some pressure. I thought he was gutsy out there.”
“I thought he did great today,” added Burrow. “He can build off of that momentum that he showed today. He’s got some young guys around him that he can build some chemistry with. I think he did a great job today. I told him after the game to continue to build off of this one.”