Pittsburgh Steelers not happy with play of offense

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 18, 2017 at 11:40 PM
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0, but they didn't get there in impressive fashion. They barely beat the Browns in Cleveland in the opener and played another inconsistent game Sunday in their 26-9 victory over the Vikings.

One reason it feels lackluster is the offense's performance through two games. The Steelers were supposed to have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, but they're 17th in total offense and are averaging 23.5 points per game.

With the return of running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant, big things were expected, but the offense has yet to develop a rhythm.

Most notably, Bell is off to a slow start after skipping all of training camp due to a contract dispute. He has just 119 yards rushing through two games and has not scored.

"It'll come," said Bell, who rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries against the Vikings Sunday. "I'm due for an explosion play. It hasn't happened yet. I almost had like three today. I almost made one on a screen, a run. They made the play. We're two games in. We'll watch the film and get ready for next week."

Head coach Mike Tomlin believes Bell's absence from training camp is one of the reasons he's off to a slow start.

"He's going through a process from time missed," Tomlin said. "Today was a significant step. He was better than a week ago. But again, much like Martavis (Bryant), you're not looking at a finished product. We'll continue to work him back and along the way he's going to give us above-the-line contributions like he did today."

Even though Bell has yet to break out, the 87 yards were enough to keep the Vikings honest. The Steelers were able to get some one-on-one matchups with their receivers on Vikings defensive backs and took advantage with some big plays and pass interference penalties.

"The run game is pivotal for us," guard Ramon Foster said. "They were ranked third against the run last year. If we're able to run the ball against a good defensive line, then you can open it up a little bit. It causes problems for the linebackers. The guys outside get open more, and you make big plays."

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One of the hottest topics Monday in Pittsburgh was the decision head coach Mike Tomlin made when rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt injured his groin and left the game against the Vikings. Instead of inserting James Harrison, Watt's backup on the depth chart, Tomlin turned to Anthony Chickillo, who played the remainder of the game in Watt's place.

Harrison did not play a snap. He only played four in the opener against the Browns.

Tomlin did not address the issue after the game and did not speak with reporters Monday, but it simply might have been a matter of playing the hot hand. Chickillo had two sacks the previous week against the Browns when he started in place of Bud Dupree.

While fans were surprised by the development, Chickillo's teammates were not.

"We're not surprised," inside linebacker Ryan Shazier said. "I knew Chickillo was going to come in and give us everything he had. When he came to camp everyone saw he was in better shape. His body looked better. Every single day he was working his tail off. He was getting sacks in practice, going against one of the best O-lines. I knew once the season came he'd be able to do the same against anyone else."

Chickillo was drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Miami, where he was a defensive lineman. He has dropped 40 pounds since his college days and continues to learn outside linebacker.

"I think Chick became a better pass rusher," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "He worked on his craft. He got stronger in the weight room. He has a good leader in James Harrison, who teaches him a lot. And he has a good coach in Joey Porter, who stresses how to be a good outside linebacker. It wasn't easy for Chick at first because he was a defensive lineman, so it took a little time. But I think he's made the transition pretty smoothly."

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