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How Steelers Can Get Back On Track

The Pittsburgh Steelers season isn’t over. And it is fixable.

As September comes to a close, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves at 1-2 on the season, which surely wasn't the start that Mike Tomlin was looking for. However, the Steelers have a chance to get back to .500 this weekend if they can defeat the New York Jets at home. 

This matchup feels like one that the Steelers absolutely have to win considering their schedule tightens up before the Bye Week. There are several things Pittsburgh must do in order to get back on track after the quasi-bye week.

Offense Must Sustain Drives

To put it lightly, Pittsburgh's offense has been disappointing out fo the gate, ranking near the bottom of the league in several critical categories. The most concerning one might be time of possession, as they are dead last currently averaging only a shade over 24 minutes per game. This has adversely affected the defense as they have been on the field repeatedly after little to no rest on the sidelines.

The Steelers struggles on offense revolve around several spells where they just can't quite seem to convert on third downs, even when they're faced with manageable down and distances. A 1-9 third down conversion rate during their loss against the Browns brought their season total down to 33%, which ranks 20th in the NFL. 

This offense doesn't feel on the brink of a breakout but if they could at least avoid going three out out as frequently, it might be enough to squeak out some wins in the meantime. 

Defense Must Generate More Pressure

There might not be a more valuable non-quarterback in the entire NFL than T.J. Watt considering what the Steelers defense looks like without him over the last couple years. 

With Watt currently sidelined with an injury, opposing offenses have been able to slide protections towards Cam Heyward, leading to an oddly slow start to the season for one of their team captains. Without Watt in the fold, Pittsburgh needs to find ways to generate pressure on opposing quarterback to get back to forcing more turnovers. 

As of right now, the Steelers just aren't getting much from their supporting cast members with the exception of Alex Highsmith, who currently leads the NFL in sacks with 4.5. The trio of Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley and DeMarvin Leal have rushed the passer 130 times so far this season and have combined to register just two total pressures, according to Sports Info Solutions. That's not going to get the job done. 

Even if it means blitzing more than they originally intended, the Steelers must quickly get back to harassing signal callers on a regular basis, starting this weekend with Zach Wilson who might just be a tad rusty as he's returning from injury. 

Get George Pickens Involved

This has been a common plea on social media through the first couple weeks of the season. As evidenced by his miraculous one-handed, highlight-reel worth snag against the Browns, Pickens is incredibly talented. 

For someone with his skill set, just eight catchable targets through three games is unfathomable and offensive coordinator Matt Canada needs to make it a priority to get No. 14 more involved moving forward. 

For an offense struggling to generate explosive plays down the field, getting your second-round pick involved could solve a lot of their problems. 

As the Steelers Z receiver in 11 personnel, Pickens has been mostly working on a vertical plane by running a ton of "go/fly" routes. He's already ran 27 such routes on the season, six more than any other receiver in the NFL but he's saw just two targets on those plays. Pickens is a weapon that even when he's covered, he's still partially open because of his impressive blend of body control, tracking and contested catch ability. 

Trubisky has shown that he's willing to push the ball down the field a bit, utilizing Pickens early and often could lead to him holding on to this starting gig just a little while longer. 

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Make Stopping the Run Priority Number One

The Steelers made a depth chart change, replacing Tyson Alualu with Montravius Adams as the nose tackle in their base 3-4 defense. We'll see if that alone is enough of a boost to get their run defense back on track but after Nick Chubb ran amuck last week, the Steelers need to find answers quickly to avoid a repeat of last season. 

They showed some flashes of improved run defense in the season opener against Joe Mixon but considering Cincinnati's struggles running the football this season, that could have had more to do with their shortcomings in that regard.

Through three games, the Steelers defense has already allowed 428 rushing yards which ranks 24th in the NFL. While the offense has been mostly to blame in terms of allowing such a huge time of possession discrepancy, the defense shares some fault there as well. When you allow teams to run the football down your throat, it's hard to get off the field and the clock keeps on running as a result. 

If the front seven continues to struggle with Watt in street clothes, the Steelers might have to roll Terrell Edmunds into the box a bit more to offset that loss. With New York's offensive line beat up due to injuries of their own, it would be nice to see the Steelers make a statement in the trenches in Week 4. 

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