From multiple-touchdown games by Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates to a game-sealing catch over the middle by Travis Kelce, the Steelers have struggled at times against elite tight ends.
Coach Mike Tomlin knows the Steelers aren’t the only team with these problems. Tight ends are better than they’ve ever been. The problems are universal, he said.
That doesn’t make this week any easier as his team prepares for the Seattle Seahawks.
“Doesn’t feel good this week that we prepare to face Jimmy Graham,” Tomlin said. “[He has] vertical-threat capabilities that we have to work to minimize.”
The Steelers should work to contain Graham, particularly in the red zone, but they don’t need to overthink this one.
A lethal scoring threat with the Saints for the past five seasons, Graham hasn’t recorded a touchdown in seven straight games. Traded from New Orleans to Seattle in the offseason, he is on pace for 844 yards on 70 catches, his lightest production since 2010, his rookie season. Graham came from Drew Brees’ offense of rhythm and timing. Russell Wilson freelances more. The timing between Graham and Wilson is still off.
Focusing too much on Graham could give emerging rookie Tyler Lockett and veteran Doug Baldwin open windows downfield.
For the Steelers, a primary focus should be reducing the average of 278 passing yards allowed per game, one of the worst in the league. The Pittsburgh defense ranks in the top 10 in the league in sacks (28) and points allowed (19.1 per game), but the yardage discrepancy will catch up to the Steelers eventually.
“We have to get off the field,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.