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Pickett 'energized' heading into post-bye games

The Steelers' bye week came at a good time for second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Not only will he potentially get two of his top targets back on the field in wide receiver Diontae Johnson and tight end Pat Freiermuth, but the week off gave Pickett some much-needed time to take a step back and look at his own game, along with that of the entire offense.

When that happened a year ago, the Steelers adjusted and became an offense that averaged more than a touchdown more per game over the second half of the season.

This bye came earlier, and the Steelers find themselves in a much better position at 3-2 rather than the 2-6 hole they dug for themselves in the 2022 season.

"It's all about self scouting. It's all about looking at yourself as a player," Pickett said Wednesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as the Steelers continued preparations to play the Rams at SoFi Stadium Sunday in Los Angeles.

"What I need to improve on. What we need to improve on as an offense, getting with coach (Matt) Canada, watching all of our past plays together. What went well, what didn't go well, and where we can improve. So it was a solid week of work for us."

Pickett and company aren't saying what those adjustments will be, but rest assured, they plan on being a better offense than the one that averaged just over 15 points per game in their first five outings.

The Steelers found a way to win three of those first five games, four of which they played without Johnson, their leading receiver in each of the past three seasons, and Freiermuth in their last game against the Ravens.

Second-year wide receiver George Pickens stepped up in a big way in the absence of Johnson, in particular, and the hope is that his improvement will only continue with Johnson on the other side of him drawing attention.

"I think it helped balance the teams out a little bit," Pickett said of the return of Johnson, who still must be activated off injured reserve after going on IR following a Week 1 loss to the 49ers with a hamstring injury.

"George was getting a lot of attention. He was still having success, but there was still a lot of attention going to (Pickens') way now that (Johnson) is back out there, I feel like he kind of balances it out a little bit."

The Steelers could use some offensive balance. All too often, they've relied almost solely on the arm of Pickett to consistently move the ball.

As a result, the Steelers are averaging just 80.4 yards rushing per game and are one of just two teams in the NFL currently without a rushing touchdown this season. Minnesota is the other.

Balancing that out would be a big boost for the offense moving forward. And it's something the Steelers did a year ago at the bye when they went from averaging around 90 rushing yards per game to 146.2 in the second half of the season.

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

Pickett was part of that rushing attack, as he added 237 rushing yards in his rookie season on 55 attempts. His runs resulted in 23 first downs last season.

This season, he's run just 16 times for 12 yards – counting kneel downs – with four of those accounting for first downs.

"I think it's just something that's happened," Pickett said, "whether it's playing from the pocket or what the team with the defense is allowing me to do just kind of taking what's there. If those opportunities are there, I'll take them. But if not, just play from the pocket or do what the play is called to do."

No matter what, it has to start taking shape this week. The Steelers are healthy offensively for the first time since early in the second half of their regular season opener.

They have a firm idea of why they weren't performing well in the first five games. Now, it's just a matter of correcting those things on the field.

"Very critical," Pickett said when asked how much so he was in his self-scouting and the coaches were on the offense as a whole. "That's the only way we're going get better is hold ourselves to a high standard and continue to push forward and work hard every day to get better. So, I felt like it was a good week for us mentally to figure out where we were what we need to do to improve, kind of get to step away, relax a little bit and come back energized ready to go."