What's wrong with the Steelers? Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada deserve heat with no Kenny Pickett spark

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The Steelers are headed to their worst season under Mike Tomlin in his 16 years as coach. Although just finishing below .500 after their 1-4 start will confirm that, they are in real danger of being the NFL's worst team in 2022.

Pittsburgh has never had a losing record with Tomlin. It's coming off two consecutive playoff berths in the tough AFC North and the team did that despite having a fading, pre-retirement Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. Now the post-Big Ben offense is struggling in the transition, but the defensive woes without a healthy T.J. Watt are even more distressing.

The Steelers weren't scoring enough with Mitchell Trubisky, so turning to starting rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett was necessary. But whoever's at QB is in a tough spot to win games now with the defense in complete breakdown.

The all-around problems on full display in losing to the Bills 38-3 in Week 5. The game in Buffalo was over for the Steelers when Josh Allen, who threw for 424 yards, hit Gabe Davis on a 98-yard TD pass on the game's third offensive play.

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The Steelers came in with an atrocious run defense, ranked No. 24 and allowing on average 131.5 yards per game. They also came in No. 20 against the pass, a number that will drop after being ripped by Allen for big plays all over the field.

Those results have proved how much they miss Watt, who was put on short-term injured reserve after injuring his pectoral in Week 1's lone win against the Bengals. Watt now likely won't return until November at the earliest after also needing knee surgery.

By then, the Steelers will be closer to the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 than the AFC wild-card picture. In fact, after Houston won, Pittsburgh would indeed be the team picking first after five weeks. That won't change with Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia as the brutal opponents left before a merciful Week 9 bye.

Tomlin and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin are operating without Watt and also are dealing with injuries to a thin and weak secondary after Minkah Fitzpatrick. There's been a lot of duct tape used to keep the front seven from unraveling without their cornerstone. But after the fortunate takeaway-fueled overtime escape against the Bengals, the Steelers haven't stopped much with their scheming and personnel.

The offense was bound to take some lumps with Trubisky and then Pickett. Blame offensive coordinator Matt Canada for not maximizing opportunities while having a bigger arm and more athleticism than Roethlisberger with either QB.

The Steelers need more from their running game with Najee Harris and bad offensive line play and negative game scripts have hurt. The Steelers need more from their downfield passing game and were late to give spectacular rookie George Pickens the No. 1 treatment. Canada also insists on giving struggling Chase Claypool too many key snaps. He also had been inconsistent in involving tight end Pat Freiermuth, who was concussed against the Bills. Canada also has made Harris disappear as a checkdown receiver. 

This is the first time Tomlin and any Steelers' offensive coordinator under him have been charged with a QB change. Not starting Pickett right away was a big mistake, because it forced them to throw him into the fire as a starter against the loaded defenses of Buffalo and Tampa Bay back-to-back. While he's still finding his flow in a choppy offense, he has to deal with two nasty pass defenses.

Pittsburgh's defense was heavily Watt-dependent and his downright dominance masked plenty of other fundamental issues. The most glaring is the fact the Steelers still haven't solved their key inside linebacker weaknesses as neither Devin Bush nor Myles Jack is cutting it.

Pickett could help them win games in a situation where he could lean well on Harris' running and the right wide receiver combination and not have the burden to do so much with some complementary defensive support. It's hard to provide a "spark" when there's no ignition.

The Steelers being the worst team in the NFL doesn't happen often. It last happened in 1969, 53 years ago. They took Terry Bradshaw with the first pick in the 1970 draft and the rest is Super Bowl history.

For 50 years with Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin as head coach, with six total rings in tow, the hot seat hasn't been a thing in Pittsburgh like it consistently is in other NFL cities not named Foxborough, Mass. Will Tomlin will be fired over one bad season? Of course not. But can he feel some unfamiliar heat for the Steelers looking and playing this awful? Definitely.

Tomlin hasn't been afraid to make key staff changes when needed, having to do it twice post-Bruce Arians for the offense with Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner, and there's case he stuck with them too long. Canada's plans aren't meshing with the QB change to Pickett, meaning there needs to be an OC change.

It's also clear Austin wasn't the right choice to replace retired Keith Butler as defensive coordinator. Tomlin has a much easier solution there by just promoting senior assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores to DC.

The Steelers are used to reloading, not rebuilding. But this team isn't without its share of winnable talent, stockpiled by now-former GM Kevin Colbert. The Steelers might not win more than they lose this season, but they need to dig deep to do more winning, period.

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