Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay was once asked about his offense’s execution.
McKay, ever the joker, quipped, “I’m in favor of it.”
All kidding aside, execution on the football field is critical to success. And in last Sunday night’s 23-18 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, the Steelers’ execution – particularly on offense – was much more crisp than it had been in the team’s first two games.
Continuing to build off that performance is something the Steelers (2-1), and particularly quarterback Kenny Pickett, want to do as they head into next Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans (1-2).
“I think there was a lot better execution,” Pickett said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I think we had a great game plan. Not that we didn’t have a great game plan in weeks prior but the execution was a lot better.”
Pickett completed 16 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns without an interception against the Raiders, as the Steelers won the turnover battle 3-0 against the Raiders and won for the eighth time in Pickett’s last 10 starts.
Overall, the Steelers gained 333 yards of offense, averaging 5.6 yards per play, looking much more fluid throughout the game than they had in their first two outings against San Francisco and Cleveland.
“It’s good to put really good tape out there and see us have success and really good teaching moments on the good plays and some of the bad plays,” said Pickett.
Repeating that performance is the key.
Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans is in his first season in Houston after previously being the defensive coordinator with the 49ers.
Ryans has incorporated many of the same defensive philosophies he used in San Francisco, which limited the Steelers to 239 yards and seven points in a 30-7 win at Acrisure Stadium to open the season.
“You see a lot of similarities obviously,” said Pickett. “He’s a great coach. He did an unbelievable job at San Fran now he’s done a great job in Houston. So it’s gonna be a tough task for us to do a lot of really good things. They’ve got great players on all three levels. So another tough, tough challenge.”
One thing Pickett has done well over the past two weeks is something he was unable to do in the opener – use the middle of the field.
The 49ers have All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner and Pro Bowl safety Talanoa Hufanga in the middle of their defense, making it difficult for quarterbacks to complete passes between the hash marks. But in the past two games, Pickett has completed 8 of 10 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the middle of the field.
Pickett completed 7 of 13 passes over the middle against the 49ers, but for only 41 yards with an interception. In the past two games, he’s 8 of 10 for 225 yards and two touchdown passes working the middle of the field.
That includes going 5 of 6 for 148 yards and a touchdown over the middle of the field against the Raiders.
“I think you always have to utilize it,” Pickett said of the middle of the field. “They do some things schematically that are similar to San Fran that you know may discourage you here or there. But we’ve got to execute at the end of the day. We want plays to get guys in positions to be successful. We just got to do what we did on Sunday night, and there were plays that we left out there as well. So there’s always improvement.”
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