Coach Mike Tomlin believes it won’t take his team long to right the ship. Their next opportunity to do so comes in front of a national audience, when the Steelers host the division-rival Browns on Monday night.
The going won’t be easy. The Browns are, simply, looking quite good after one game into Jim Schwartz’s tenure as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator. Cleveland’s defense dominated in the Browns’ 24-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, limiting Joe Burrow — the NFL’s new highest-paid player — to just 82 passing yards and the worst completion percentage over expected of his career (-13.9 percent), per Next Gen Stats.
The Browns’ revamped pass rush, meanwhile, made for a nightmare of a day for Burrow, sacking him twice and pressuring him on 36.4 percent of dropbacks. On such snaps, Burrow completed just 2 of 10 passes for 22 yards and a passer rating of 39.6, only slightly worse than his total passer rating of 52.2.
“To be blunt, I thought the corners won the game for them last week,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Their ability to stand on the line of scrimmage and challenge the Cincinnati Bengals, I thought, was really impressive.”
Pickett labored through Pittsburgh’s blowout loss, throwing two interceptions in a pass-heavy game. He knows he missed some early opportunities and made some avoidable mistakes. He’s also well aware of the fact he cannot afford another clunker of an outing if the Steelers hope to get back on track.
Tomlin knows better than to think this is the start of a freefall into irrelevance for the young passer.
“There’s football justice when you work at it, man,” Tomlin said of Pickett. “You generally get good things that come out of it. This is a guy that’s fully committed. This is a guy that works his tail off, and largely, man, those guys create their own fortune.
“It’s reasonable to expect guys that work the way he works and prepares the way he prepares to bounce back from a negative performance. Individually and collectively, I expect this group to do similar things.”
The good news is that it’s only Week 1 for the Steelers. Sixteen more games await them, including a suddenly important meeting with the Browns. If Pickett is going to live up to the high expectations set for him by a strong preseason showing, he can make quite a statement by finding a way to succeed against a defense that is off to a hot start.