Steelers, Patriots trying to train without quarterbacks

Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin are great coaches. This season, more than ever, their teams need them with limited offenses in the wrong era to be limited.

Take a look around the NFL and discover the competitors. They are almost all managed by all-world quarterbacks making great attacks. They are also married to excellent coaching staffs.

Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, Josh Allen and Sean McDermott, Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh, Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay, Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur. Then there’s the great quarterback without the tried and tested peer at the coach, situations like Tom Brady and Todd Bowles, Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor, Justin Herbert and Brandon Staley.

You’ll find that these teams are all free to score at will. Welcome to the modern NFL.

In both New England and Pittsburgh, the coaches are beyond reproach. As the two teams enter their week two matchup at Acrisure Stadium, Bill Belichick has eight Super Bowl rings, six of them as the leader. Mike Tomlin is in his 15th season at the helm of the Steelers and hasn’t experienced a losing season while clinching a title and two Super Bowl appearances.

However, both are tied to attacking situations that are either limiting and/or impossible to overcome.

For Belichick, he is the de facto general manager responsible for the mess.

New England has the most expensive group of receivers and tight ends (by combined 22 cap hits) and yet doesn’t have a single explosive playmaker in either location on the depth chart. Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry are quality targets, but both fail to keep opposing defensive coordinators awake.

Under the middle, Mac Jones has had a solid rookie season but doesn’t seem to have an elite upside. For a first-round pick, it’s an overwhelming future. And when Jones is paired with a former defensive coach and failed head coach in Matt Patricia as his game-caller, you’re in for a disaster.

In today’s quarterback-rich AFC, being well-trained isn’t enough. You also need a star under the middle who can uplift those around him.

In Week 1, the Patriots’ offense scored as many points — seven — as they could. Jones posted a league-worst 9.7 QBR. The stats are backed by film, with Jones missing open receivers, throwing a bad interception in the end zone, and mostly checking down.

But blaming Jones for the flop is oversimplifying a multifaceted problem led by receivers who can’t break up and a coordinator who has no business being in the role.

It all boils down to Belichick, who, while perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history, has screwed up drafts and lavishly spent on the wrong players in recent years.

Now it’s up to him to save himself with masterful intrigue.

In Pittsburgh the problem is different.

The Steelers also have a young first-round quarterback in Kenny Pickett, but the rookie remains on the bench behind veteran journeyman Mitchell Trubisky. For the most part last Sunday, Trubisky was terrible, throwing for 5.1 yards per attempt while the offense only 16 points despite five turnovers from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Though Pittsburgh pulled off a miracle win in the Queen City, Trubisky’s shortcomings and a terrible offensive line threaten to derail the Steelers in the months to come. Tomlin undoubtedly knows this, which is what makes the following question so intriguing.

If the Steelers keep winning — their next three games are against the Patriots, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets — but the offense is mired in a deep funk, Tomlin goes with his rookie in hopes of a pull ours he protects him from a tough schedule with little protection?

For Tomlin, that’s the question that could define the Pittsburgh season. No one doubts the Steelers have an elite offense, but Trubisky is a game manager on his best days and a saboteur on his worst.

Both Belichick and Tomlin are scholars on the sidelines, but each is hampered by a fatal flaw below center and above their respective offenses, albeit in different areas.

The Steelers have the potential to be saved by Pickett, while the Patriots must find ways to emphasize Jones’ strengths and minimize his weaknesses, offensive coordinator and now Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said last year masterfully accomplished.

Smart money usually says Pittsburgh and New England are lingering in the playoff chase, with one or both even finding their way into the postseason. Great coaching, discipline and situational football have that effect.

But in today’s quarterback-rich AFC, being well-trained isn’t enough. You also need a star under the middle who can uplift those around him.

For the Patriots and Steelers, they each only have half the combination it takes to be great. Steelers, Patriots trying to train without quarterbacks

John Verrall

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