3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 8 Loss vs. Eagles
The Pittsburgh Steelers met their in-state NFC counterpart on Sunday in a game that displayed the differing arcs of two campaigns. While the Steelers continue developing quarterback Kenny Pickett in a rebuilding season, the Philadelphia Eagles continue to march toward the postseason.
The 7-0 Eagles and quarterback Jalen Hurts are what the Steelers hope to be with Pickett in a year or two.
Pittsburgh is far from that point right now. Pickett threw for just 191 yards with an interception, the defense surrendered multiple big plays, and the Steelers looked completely outclassed in a 35-13 beatdown. At 2-6, it may be time for Pittsburgh to start thinking about next year.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Steelers' Week 8 loss to the Eagles.
Pittsburgh Needs to Invest in Cornerbacks Soon
At 2-6, the Steelers may not be inclined to acquire any players at the trade deadline. However, they need to start thinking about investing in a cornerback or two in the coming offseason—and seeing what's available on the free-agent market wouldn't hurt.
Ahkello Witherspoon made his return after a four-game absence (hamstring). He was benched after allowing two long touchdowns by Eagles wideout A.J. Brown.
“You want to be in position when it’s time to make a play," Witherspoon said, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When it was time to make it, I didn’t make it."
Pittsburgh's poor defensive performance wasn't all on Witherspoon, though. The secondary was gashed all afternoon, as Jalen Hurts finished with 285 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 completions. The bad pass defense hasn't just occurred in this game either.
The Steelers came into the game ranked 29th in passing yards allowed and 28th in yards per completion allowed.
If Pittsburgh hopes to be a contender in 2023, it needs to kick the tires on every quality free-agent cornerback and every top draft prospect in the spring. There simply isn't anything close to a shutdown corner on the Steelers roster currently, and that's a massive problem.
The Offensive Line Remains a Liability
The Steelers offense was also painful to watch on Sunday, and much of the misery stemmed from the offensive line. Pickett was under pressure constantly, and the Eagles finished with six sacks. However, the issue wasn't limited to poor pass protection.
Pittsburgh also struggled to find consistency on the ground. Pittsburgh finished with 144 rushing yards, but second-year running back Najee Harris was limited to 32 yards on eight carries. Pickett picked up 37 yards on scrambles, and backup running back Jaylen Warren tallied 50 yards in a change-of-pace role.
Now, Harris—who came in averaging 3.3 yards per carry—hasn't been great this season, which is why we've seen more of Warren recently. According to Harris, though, the line is responsible for his struggles.
"I can't make the hole, he said, per 93.7 The Fan. "I can't do everything."
Perhaps Harris simply isn't as good as he appeared as a rookie Pro Bowler in 2021. However, the line certainly hasn't helped. Pittsburgh came in averaging 3.7 yards per carry as a team. That line has now surrendered 21 sacks on the season.
As long as the Steelers continue to struggle in the trenches, the offense will struggle to find a rhythm.
Pittsburgh Must Reevaluate Matt Canada in the Offseason
The Steelers probably won't make a change at offensive coordinator during the season. However, they will need to reevaluate the status of Matt Canada in the offseason. Pittsburgh's offense is too bland, too predictable and too inefficient for the Steelers to win consistently.
On Sunday, the Steelers were a miserable 1-of-12 on third down and settled for field goals in the red zone twice. Pittsburgh won't win many games by scoring only 13 points, and it certainly won't beat a title contender like the Eagles.
Pittsburgh came in ranked 30th in total offense and 31st in scoring, and it can't blame all of its problems on having a rookie quarterback.
Does Canada deserve all of the blame? Of course not. The players aren't executing and the line is a liability. However, the second-year play caller isn't helping matters by consistently dialing up uninspired game plans that fail to mask the offensive deficiencies.
The Steelers should start weighing their options for their 2023 offensive coordinator now.