PITTSBURGH — When Eddie Faulkner became the Pittsburgh Steelers interim offensive coordinator, one of the things that was universally praised about him was the way he had his players prepared and his (and their) attention to detail.
Two weeks later, that attention to detail seems to be the big thing his team is lacking.
The Steelers offense repeatedly shot itself in the foot in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. There were mental mistakes like not having the correct number of players in the huddle and failing to line up correctly. There were physical mistakes like Mason Cole being unable to consistently snap the ball and the team falling short on a make-able 4th and 1.
While the Steelers offense has no shortage of struggles — they are 26th in yards, 28th in points, 29th in passing and 14th in rushing — no one expects Faulkner to be able to solve all of that as a midseason replacement for Matt Canada.
But the lack of focus and discipline, especially considering Faulkner’s background, should be something that he ought to be able to get into line. In some ways, correcting the issues that cropped up on Sunday against the Cardinals will be the first big test of Faulkner’s time as OC.
That test will be compounded by the fact that the Steelers only have one full day of practice before they play their next game on Thursday Night Football against the New England Patriots.
“On a short week like this, man, as a coach, the hard thing is, you’re walking the fine line between, we’ve gotta talk about those issues, because they were issues, but at the same time, we have to move on to the next opponent,” Faulkner said on Tuesday.
“That was the first thing we addressed. Obviously, we made sure that everybody understood that it wasn’t acceptable. We did that collectively as a unit. And then we’ve got to move on. They were definitely held accountable. Everybody was held accountable for any mistakes that were made in that game, because that wasn’t what we were hunting. Now we plan forward for Thursday night.”
Of course, Faulkner said that the things that went wrong on Sunday were all things the coaching staff had talked about previously, so it’s hard to be sure that more words will have the desired result.
“A lot of the issues that came up in that game, we talked about and discussed, whether it was myself or Coach Tomlin, in front of the room,” Faulkner said. “That gives you all the ability in the world to walk in there and be like, guys, look, we talked about this, and this didn’t happen. So, what happens with that? The accountability now falls on the players to make sure they’re executing and getting done what they need to get done. We’ll just continue on that path but making sure that they understand they’ve got to have some more urgency with how to go about their business.”
Faulkner is putting the onus on his players to step up and take ownership of the problems with the offense. That’s about all that he can do — he can’t follow them on the field to make sure they mind their Ps and Qs. But if the message isn’t understood, and the players don’t buy in, it’s Faulkner’s reputation as a potential offensive coordinator candidate that will suffer.