We may be only five weeks into the Pittsburgh Steelers season, but many are already looking forward to next year.
And that’s not because the team is struggling, they actually lead the AFC North division.
Rather it’s the fact that Pittsburgh likely won’t make a change at OC until seasons end, with one name seeming like the obvious choice:
Whether you think it would be a smart choice or not, the most obvious candidate, and on that would be right up Pittsburgh’s alley is current University of Nebraska OC Mark Whipple.
Before making a lateral move to join the Cornhuskers, Whipple was Kenny Pickett’s offensive coordinator at Pitt, helping command an offense that won the ACC and saw Kenny Pickett punch his ticket to the Heisman Trophy Ceremony in New York following the 2021 season.
But the familiarity doesn’t stop there. Whipple actually has history with the professional team in Pittsburgh, having served as the Quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-2006. Whipple was a catalyst in the development of Ben Roethlisberger, helping the team win a Super Bowl during Bill Cowher’s final season.
Current Steelers OC Matt Canada has taken more than a few pages out of Whipple’s playbook, but he doesn’t have all the answers and nuances that Whipple does, nor does he have the relationship with Pickett that Whip does, even if some of the more successful plays in Pittsburgh resemble those during Kenny’s time at Pitt:
7️⃣ Days Until Pitt Football
4th & 1… Kenny Pickett delivers. Addison beats his man and an easy pitch and catch from #8 to #3. pic.twitter.com/4nPbr2p7ix
— The Loyal Sons (@TheLoyalSons) August 25, 2022
Pickett to Muth for six. More PA boot with Muth running the red 7 and Pickett putting it on him with touch and placement.
— Rob G (@NFL_Rob) September 25, 2023
So sure, are there more innovative designers out there? Definitely. But regardless of what happens the rest of this season, year three will be make or break for Pickett in Pittsburgh. The weaponry is there, and the offensive line will continue to be upgraded. That means the only thing holding back the offense would be its design and playcalling. With Whipple in town, that would no longer be an excuse, giving Pittsburgh a real look at if Pickett is who they think he is.