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Tomlin, Steelers in no mood to panic as offense sputters

(AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

PITTSBURGH (AP) There are plenty of people concerned with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, including a significant chunk of the players whose job it is to make it go.

Don't count coach Mike Tomlin among them.

While Tomlin is hardly pleased with what he's seen in general from the Steelers following back-to-back losses that have dropped them to 1-2 heading into Sunday's visit by the New York Jets (1-2), he's not panicking either.

It's still September. The season is longer than ever.

So rather than blow everything up - or specifically, bench starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky in favor of rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett - Tomlin is essentially doubling down.

Not only is he not overly worried about an offense that ranks 31st in yards through three weeks, he believes it is heading in the right direction.

"Largely I'm seeing improvements at all areas, whether it's individuals or whether it's the collective and so it's our job to tune out the noise and remain committed to the path that we're on," Tomlin said Tuesday.

A path that still includes Trubisky, whose early returns in Pittsburgh largely mirror what he produced during four enigmatic seasons in Chicago from 2017-20.

Trubisky's quarterback rating of 77.7 is 29th among active starters and his 5.5 yards per pass attempt is last.

Tomlin anticipated an adjustment period with Trubisky taking over for Ben Roethlisberger. The growing pains are difficult to miss. Pittsburgh's offense is running in fits and starts while it searches for an identity that isn't readily apparent with October looming.

Still, Tomlin is in no mood to be reactionary.

"I expect our guys not to blink and to continue to work," he said. "And so I'm here to display that as a leader and I intend to."

Slow starts are nothing new for Pittsburgh. The Steelers are a combined 9-10-1 in September going back to 2017. Three times in that span they managed to reach the playoffs and in one of the years they didn't (2019), they somehow put together a 7-1 midseason stretch following a 1-4 start with Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges at quarterback after Roethlisberger was lost for the season with a right elbow injury suffered just before halftime of a Week 2 loss to Seattle.

Tomlin acknowledged the team is "hacked off" and while he understands if the chants at Acrisure Stadium for Pickett could grow louder if Trubisky doesn't generate much against New York, he has no plans to heed them.

If anything, Tomlin thinks Trubisky took a step forward last Thursday against Cleveland, a game in which he threw for a season-best 206 yards and ran for a touchdown, though he also failed to lead the Steelers into the end zone in the second half of a game that was there for the taking.

Tomlin said he's seen Trubisky progress "in all areas," including decision-making and the ability to make plays with his legs. The Steelers signed Trubisky due in part to his experience.

Things didn't always go smoothly in Chicago for Trubisky at times yet the Bears still made the playoffs twice in his four years as a starter. He spent a season in Buffalo resetting his career and came to Pittsburgh even while facing the unenviable task of replacing a likely future Hall of Famer.

Trubisky has said all the right things while the offense tries to find itself. His coach seems intent on giving him every opportunity to succeed.

"We're in a no blink business, particularly if we believe in what it is that we do and the people that we're doing it with," he said. "Sometimes you just got to show steely resolve and smile in the face of adversity."

NOTES: S Minkah Fitzpatrick is in the concussion protocol, though Tomlin said it's too early in the week to know if Fitzpatrick will be available against New York. ... CB Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) could miss time after being injured in Cleveland. ... P Pressley Harvin III is dealing with a hip issue. ... DT Montravius Adams has been bumped to the top of the depth chart, replacing veteran Tyson Alualu.

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Updated September 27, 2022

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