Mitch Trubisky answered the question, one of several fired at him in a media scrum this week wondering why he’s been so reluctant to throw the ball down the field, with all the candor you could ask for in such a setting.
And yet the answer was still confounding.
“Why I haven’t given the certain looks, especially early in the game, I can’t tell you exactly why.”
One-on-one opportunities have been offered up by the Bengals in the opener and especially by the Patriots in the first half last Sunday.
The head coach knows it. The wide receivers know it. The offensive coordinator knows it. And yes, Trubisky knows it.
But he’s still been reluctant, for reasons apparently unbeknownst even to him, to pull the trigger.
And that was the plan all along.
Trubisky outlined that much in great detail after the preseason finale against the Lions:
“We're going to be aggressive. We like our play-makers inside and out. So when we get matched up one-on-ones, we like to take advantage of those. We're going to keep looking for those mismatches and attacking downfield and hopefully create lighter run-boxes for Najee (Harris) back there to be balanced offense.”
That one’s been completely lost in translation and a game has been lost because of it (two would have been if not for the Bengals’ long-snapper failing to survive the opener in working order).
That’s the answer the Steelers need to find more than any other, beginning with their Thursday Night Football visit to Cleveland.
The loss of T.J. Watt is a problem, and no matter how hard they try they might not be able to scheme around that.
The run defense is concerning after the way the Patriots rammed the ball down the Steelers’ throats to close out the home opener, especially heading into a game against Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and the Browns.
The offensive line still isn’t what the Steelers want it to be, and might never be.
And the special teams need to remember how to count to 11.
But it’s the combustibility of the offense that remains the Steelers’ greatest variable.
In George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth they have the play-makers, and in Chase Claypool they have a guy who’s trending toward getting into that conversation.
Get those guys going and you may well get Harris going.
And the rest may not be as big of a concern.
But play-makers need the ball to make plays.
Trubisky needs to be one of those, too, and can be if he remembers to apply his escapability and skills either running or throwing outside the pocket when a rusher breaks free.
The Browns aren’t just Chubb and Hunt.
They’re the team that needed a 58-yard field goal to win at Carolina, in part because a cornerback thought he had safety help and the safety help was nowhere to be found on what became a late-game, 75-yard touchdown pass.
And they’re the team that blew a 13-point lead with 1:55 remaining against the Jets, in part because a cornerback thought he had safety help and the safety help was nowhere to be found on what became a late-game, 66-yard touchdown pass.
The Browns will also be without half of their game-wrecking tandem off the edge (Jadeveon Clowney won’t be playing) when they host the Steelers.
The Browns, too, are looking for answers.
Their search reportedly has already included a players-only meeting staged by the defense.
It’s a little early for that, but this Browns team is apparently vulnerable enough to try anything.
Attacking these guys down the field isn’t advisable, it’s mandatory.
If the Steelers fail to do so again, we’ll have our answer regarding Trubisky, and perhaps offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
And the next guy in need of answers will be Mike Tomlin.