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Pickett: Yards are nice, but Steelers want points

The Steelers moved the ball nearly at will in last Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. But points? Those remained a little harder to come by.

Figuring out that part of the offensive equation remains the next step for the Steelers (7-4) as they prepare to face the Cardinals (2-10) Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

"Points are what we want," Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "We want points. Yards are great, but points wins you games."

That's certainly the case. But the Steelers have been winning games this season despite ranking 28th in the NFL in scoring at 16.5 points per game.

But they did roll up 421 total yards of offense in last week's 16-10 win over the Bengals, recording a season-high six plays of 20 or more yards while holding the ball for over 37 minutes and outgaining their opponent in a game for the first time this season.

Those were the positive developments coming out of the team replacing offensive coordinator Matt Canada last week, with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner taking over game-planning duties and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling the offensive plays.

The negatives were the lack of scoring overall and going just 1 of 4 scoring touchdowns once the Steelers got inside the Cincinnati 20, commonly known as the red zone.

"The chunk plays were there. That was good," said Pickett. "I thought we had some really good drives working on some long fields. We've got to score in the red zone. We just had some negative plays we felt like kind of took us out of that rhythm, that really good rhythm that we were having. So, we need to get that fixed."

One potential way to do that would be the team's continued usage of its three tight end package that includes Pat Freiermuth, Connor Heyward and rookie Darnell Washington all on the field together at the same time.

The Steelers used that package extensively against the Bengals with great success. Freiermuth set career highs with nine receptions for 120 yards, while Heyward and Washington combined for three additional receptions.

It's a package from which the Steelers can run or pass out of because all three tight ends offer matchup issues for the opposing defense.

Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

"I like the versatility out of it," Pickett said. "I don't think you're run-heavy, and I think the things that we did off of it were really good. I love having Connor and Pat in there as well Darnell. I think we're pretty versatile in it, and it keeps the defense honest."

That was one of the newer wrinkles added to the play calling by Faulkner and Sullivan – though the Steelers hadn't been able to utilize that look in previous games with Freiermuth sidelined for four weeks with a hamstring injury.

Pickett threw for a season-high 278 yards last week against the Bengals, while the Steelers also rushed for 153 yards, their fourth consecutive game with at least 150 yards on the ground.

The Steelers were as balanced offensively as they've been all season.

Now, they just need to find ways to punch the ball into the end zone. After last week's failures, their conversion rate in the red zone fell to 43.5 percent for the season.

"It felt good on Sunday," Pickett said. "Obviously you want more points, but after watching the tape and seeing how we executed in the past game, the run game, how things kind of balanced off each other. I definitely liked our performance."

He then reiterated his main point – again.

"But you want more points, obviously," Pickett said.