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Flavell's Five Thoughts: Time for Steelers to Unleash Joey Porter Jr.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have much-needed help in the secondary.

Surely, the Pittsburgh Steelers' win over Cleveland in Week 2 was never going to happen easily. The offense looked pedestrian again, and the defense scored two touchdowns to squeak by their AFC North foe. In a classic AFC North showdown, Steelers fans left that game feeling worse about their team than they had after a win in quite some time.

T.J. Watt continued to stake his claim as the best defensive player in football. He relegated Myles Garrett to nothing by completely outclassing him in the head-to-head pass-rush battle. Joey Porter Jr. made a few exceptional plays, but they'll be more on that in a bit.

The offense? Well, Matt Canada was calling QB runs on 3rd-and-1. Kenny Pickett looked wildly inaccurate yet again. The offensive line struggled to block anyone wearing a white jersey. That unit is the cause for all the Steelers' concern.

However, out of the game came a win for Pittsburgh so we'll try to keep "Flavell's Five" mostly upbeat this week. Without further ado, let's discuss this game, shall we?

JPJ Looks Ready For Increased Workload

After a second-round investment, you would have liked to see Joey Porter Jr. grab a starting spot coming out of training camp. That didn't happen. Mike Tomlin wanted nothing more than for Porter Jr. to start but wasn't going to hand him anything. He's got to earn it. Through two games, albeit in a limited role, Porter Jr. looks good.

Porter Jr. made a play late in the San Francisco game on the ball and then made a handful of plays last night including locking down Donovan Peoples-Jones on the fourth down that essentially ended the game in favor of the Steelers. He looks like he's got the makings of an NFL cornerback.

Porter Jr. has work to do in regards to being a bit less handsy, but that is something that can be coached. You can't coach talent and athleticism, and Porter Jr. certainly has that in his DNA. Of course, he didn't have to clear a high bar to look good amongst the Steelers' cornerbacks.

Wallace, Peterson Struggling Out of the Gate

Heading into the season, middle linebacker and cornerback were the two positions of concern on the defensive side of the ball for Pittsburgh. The MLBs haven't been completely atrocious. There is cause for concern at corner.

Pat Peterson seemed like a popular signing in the offseason. The former All-Pro still looked sharp last season and seemed like a big boost to what the Steelers had on the roster when he was signed. His play so far has been a bit of an issue.

Early on in the 49ers game last week, Peterson had two pass breakups. They probably don't jump to the front of the brain because I'm not sure he has made a play since those PBU's. Peterson has looked a step slow going against receivers and his tackling has been rather poor.

Levi Wallace came to the Steelers last season and was serviceable but not exceptional. Week 2 was not kind to him. Wallace spent a lot of time covering Amari Cooper and had been burned on a few occasions. One that stuck out to me came late in the fourth quarter when Cooper was sent on a go route. He had Wallace beat by about three yards despite a groin injury, and Deshaun Watson made a poor throw that sailed out of bounds, or else the Steelers were likely staring 0-2 down the barrel.

These two are the starting corners for the Steelers. Neither one of them starting the year off too hot is not a good look for them especially with JPJ waiting in the wings. They have to turn it on. If both struggle, then the Steelers safeties will have to make up a lot of the slack. If Minkah Fitzpatrick has to miss time, that could be a real issue guarding against the pass.

Get Pickens The Ball

This feels like the sentence that has been repeated over and over and over since George Pickens burst on the scene. Kenny Pickett and Co. did not include Pickens very often early on in the game. He made sure to show them why they should when he finally got the ball.

Pickens took a pass from Pickett across the middle of the field and made a house call of 71 yards to put the Steelers' only offensive points on the board. His run after the catch was very impressive. Naturally, the Steelers then fed him 10 targets despite the fact he only caught four. They tried to get him involved.

With Diontae Johnson out, Pickens is the de facto number-one receiver. Heck, he still might be when Johnson gets back. Regardless, he has the talent to be one of the best in the entire game. He truly is that good. The lack of targets he's gotten across his first 19 career games is rather low.

When the ball is near him, he's going to go up and get it. If he's got it in his hands, he is shifty and dangerous enough to make something out of nothing. He even attempted to hurdle a guy, failed, and then proceeded to land on the ground and push him five yards backwards to still get the first down anyway. Insanity.

With or without Johnson, Pickens needs to see the ball considerably more. He is too good to have wasting away as a decoy on offense.

The Special Teams Effect

There was some good and bad amongst the special teams group and further proved why it can be a big part of the game.

On the first kickoff the Steelers received of the game, Gunner Olszewski did his best Antonio Brown impression with a beautiful toe tap. The problem is that it came on a kick return where the ball was headed out of bounds. It would've moved the ball up to at least the 35-yard line. It was one of the crazier lack of awareness situations I've seen in a football game in a long time.

Conversely, the kicking tandem of special teams had a big night. Pressley Harvin may have put up the best game he has as a professional. He pinned the Browns deep on multiple occasions with four of his seven punts landing inside the 20-yard line. Pinning Cleveland deep, especially after Chubb exited the game, is big because it really put the offense in a bind. Good on Harvin for bouncing back from a rather ugly game last week.

Chris Boswell seemed very agitated on the sidelines when Tomlin opted to punt over allowing Boswell to kick a 50+ yard field goal. This happened a few times, and Boswell even threw his helmet about 15 yards down the sidelines at one point. He responded by hitting both of his field goal attempts in helping aid the Steelers' lack of offensive scoring.

Respect special teams! It is a huge part of the game and can be used as a legit weapon to flip the field if your offense can't move the ball down the field.

My Take on Matt Canada Situation

It certainly seems that everyone is on the same page that Matt Canada isn't setting the world on fire as the Steelers' offensive coordinator. The play calls aren't good and the repetition and predicability of it is even worse. There are no surprises or downfield shots. The Steelers also need the quarterback to play better.

Look, Pickett doesn't look great so far, but there are some variables to that. However, even if Canada's plays aren't great, Pickett still has to find a way to overcome that if he is truly going to rise up in this league.

The Steelers are certainly not going to fire Canada right now. They don't do it in season very often, and they surely won't do it in Week 3 after committing to him for an entire offseason. They do, however, have a very early Bye Week this year with two "winnable" games staring them right in the face with the Raiders and Texans prior to that.

If the Steelers' offense looks this lethargic and stagnant against two defenses that pose a much lesser threat than that of the 49ers and Browns, then you almost can't justify keeping Mr. Canada. As I said before, though, the Steelers don't fire coaches in season. They just don't.

It's also likely they'd promote Mike Sullivan to the interim position to finish the year. Would the offense really look that much different over the last 15 games than it did in the past 19? I don't really believe so.

Unfortunately, it feels like we're in it for the long haul with Canada. This could be harmful to Pickett's development and the offense as a whole. However, Tomlin and Co. made their bed, and they're going to have to lay in it.

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