PITTSBURGH -- As I sit here right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-0, coming off an impromptu Bye Week following the NFL's first COVID-19 outbreak.
The Tennessee Titans changed the course of the season for the Steelers. Nothing they can't adjust to, but certainly a bump in the road as they head into Week 5. And as we look ahead, I guess we'll start nitpicking what can be improved as Pittsburgh begins a 13-game streak to close out the regular season.
Fichtner's offensive play-calling is as hit and miss as they come.
One week he'll create the perfect mix of backfield tandems and have Ben Roethlisberger finding all the right receivers in the right spots. The next week, he'll give Jaylen Samuels a shotgun handoff on 3rd and 1.
The offense runs more efficiently when Roethlisberger is calling plays during the drive. When the team takes the huddle, especially on essential downs such as 3rd and short, most times, you're looking at the person next to you asking, "what just happened?"
You're not going to get rid of the Steelers offensive coordinator. I've followed Steelers social media long enough to understand it's the wish of most fans, but if he's been here this long, he's not going anywhere.
And anyone who fires their staff after a 3-0 start is playing Madden, not real NFL football.
Adjustments need to be made in the schematics of the offense. The talent within this group allows the Steelers to utilize every part of an offensive gameplan. Power running, a matchup nightmare at tight end, four receivers who can be utilized across the field, speedy runners who can catch the ball, and a Hall of Fame quarterback leading the way - there are no major flaws in this offense.
If the play-calling is done correctly, this offense can be unstoppable.
People are calling out Minkah Fitzpatrick for not making plays this season, but his job is to be a silent killer. Last season, what the safety did was unheard of for the position he plays in Pittsburgh.
If you don't hear Fitzpatrick's name being called throughout a game, but an offense can't throw the ball deep, he's doing exactly what he should be.
Nelson, on the other hand, has missed his share of opportunities through the first three games.
There are two ways I look at this. One, our expectations for Nelson were too high. Last season, no one looked at him to be a superstar, and when he started to play like one, everyone turned their head. Then, teams started targeting the other side of the field because of Nelson and Fitzpatrick handling the left side and people noticed even more.
Maybe this year, teams are willing to take more chances on Nelson, and it's showing. He hasn't given up a ton of big plays, but has been targeted 20 times and allowed 12 receptions through three games.
The other outlook is where not looking at how the defense has played as a whole.
Through three games, the Steelers are yet to allow a runner finish with more than 70 yards. At the same time, Jeff Driskel threw for 256 yards and two scores to one interception.
The Steelers clearly have the mindset of stopping the run before the pass. Deshaun Watson was the first big name to gameplan against, and the Steelers only allowed 264 yards and two scores (which looks more than it seemed on the field).
Nelson said before the season that he wants more interceptions in 2020. He's getting more targets. Now he just needs to turn those into turnovers.
Benny Snell Jr.
After Week 1's 113-yard performance, Snell should be in the mix at running back much more than he is. And this time, it's not because of Fichtner's gameplanning.
Snell lost his role as the primary backup when he fumbled in back-to-back games to start the season. His fourth-quarter fumble against the Denver Broncos sent him to the bench, where he looked on for most of the team's game against the Houston Texans as well.
Anthony McFarland showed his explosiveness in his first NFL carries for the Steelers. It got people excited about his potential in the running game and pushed the thought of Snell a little further into the back of our minds.
It's early in the season, and the hopes for Snell were too high for the Steelers to bail on him for the last 13 games. But if he doesn't fix his ball security, he's going to get run out of the rotation by McFarland.
Diontae Johnson (Special Teams)
If we're realistic, Johnson and Ray-Ray McCloud will likely begin splitting reps as the Steelers return men. Johnson is much too shifty and explosive to say never mind to in special teams, but his awareness as a returner needs work.
We can talk about his fumbling issues in the first two games, but what alarmed me more was fair-catching a football inside the 15-yard line. Say whatever you want about Ryan Switzer, he would at least fair catch the ball outside the 20 and give the offense some sort of potential on the drive.
Watching Johnson take a punt return 80-yards to the house, only for it to be called back, was enough for us not to want Danny Smith to give up on the receiver just yet. At the same time, McCloud will take a return to the opposite endzone for a touchdown at some point this season, it's very apparent.
These two should split efforts as the Steelers return from the Bye Week. And if Johnson can't figure out how to tell where he is on the field or whether or not to be a hero on a certain return, the Steelers should slowly move towards McCloud.
Remember when Jordan Berry was doing exactly what Dustin Colquitt is doing, and everyone kept talking about how it's time for him to be cut? Yeah, it's time to start having those conversations about Colquitt.
The Steelers have a punter on the practice squad that they felt good enough about to keep around for the season.
Corliss Waitman is an undrafted rookie from South Alabama that made noise as a punter in training camp. At times, he outplayed Berry to the point where you actually thought he had a chance at making the 53-man roster.
Well, we're three games into the season, the Steelers current punter is not meeting the standard the team WANTS to have for their punt team, and maybe it's time to start thinking about calling up the rookie.
15-years in the NFL is a long time. Long enough to have stability in your job. But if this continues, and Colquitt is putting teams on their own 25-yard line punting from the opposite 30, it's not worth taking the chance on Waitman.