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5 Questions with the Enemy: Jarrett Bailey of Behind the Steel Curtain

The Steelers expert gives us the skinny on 2023’s inaugural Black and Yellow clash.

While this year’s Bengals vs. Steelers rivalry games have lost some luster because of Joe Burrow’s injury, there is still a lot of intrigue in the matchup.

A new offensive coordinator(s) is in place for the Steelers just in time to face Cincinnati, while the home team is wondering how much of a spark the backup quarterback can provide.

We tapped the knowledge of Jarrett Bailey of SB Nation’s Behind The Steel Curtain for insight on this week’s matchup. Here was our conversation this week.

1.) AC: Steelers faithful finally got their wish and saw Matt Canada be relieved of his duties this week. What do you foresee being the major changes going forward and how much better can this offense be with a new mind at the controls?

JB: Nothing major, to be honest. Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan May utilize the middle of the field more (we can only hope), but it’s the same system at the end of the day.

The only way real change will come is if the Steelers grow some onions and make some big changes in the offseason. That means bringing on a big name at offensive coordinator rather than hiring from within, and it means getting a new quarterback.

Whether it be Kirk Cousins, or trading for Kyler Murray (depending on what the Cardinals want to do at quarterback), Kenny Pickett isn’t the answer. Will they do that? I highly doubt it. But until they do, they’ll be a mediocre team who wins 9-10 games a year and loses to the actual good teams in the playoffs.

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2.) AC: Totally broad-scoped question here, but thoughts on Mike Tomlin with what the Steelers have and haven’t done this year? I have the utmost respect for him and his resume (you know, the one where he’s never had a losing season?), but at some point the Steelers faithful have to be sick of clawing for a Wild Card berth and want the deep postseason runs in which they’ve become accustomed.

JB: Right now, Tomlin feels like a professor with tenure. Why change the lesson plan (or in this case, mediocre seasons) when you know you won’t be fired? He is one of the best coaches of his era, and he’ll strut into the Hall of Fame one day.

However, the comparison I’ve made the last few years is Andy Reid’s last few seasons in Philadelphia. Obviously, the Steelers have maintained winning records the two years, but what has that gotten them? Blown out by a Chiefs team who is head and shoulders above them and then they missed the playoffs all together the following year.

Granted, last season was with a rookie quarterback. For all their struggles, though, it can all come back to Tomlin in some way. He kept Matt Canada around far longer than he should have, he had a hand in drafting a bad quarterback, he decided to not hire Eric Bieniemy or Brian Flores as his coordinators and stuck with mediocrity.

He’s a great coach, but the Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in seven years. Just about any other coach would have been given their walking papers. Not to say I don’t like Tomlin- I do- but he needs to win games that matter.

3.) AC: What’s been the key to Jaylen Warren’s rise to potential stardom? Feels like a Willie Parker thing all over again....

JB: That’s a good comp. He just has an explosiveness to his game that Najee Harris doesn’t. That said, they’ve complimented each other very well.

It reminds me a lot of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in Carolina or Chris Johnson and LenDale White in Tennessee. Big Smash-and-Dash vibes from those two. He’s a north and south runner with a helluva motor.

Hard to bring down on first contact. Right now, he’s their best offensive player.

4.) AC: Give me the prevailing sentiment on Kenny Pickett, please. There are times where he excites, and others wherein he throws for under 40 yards in the first half like last week. He’s only a second year guy, sure, but more progress needs to be seen, right? Is the proof going to be in the Canada-less pudding?

JB: He isn’t good. And that’s not me being rude, that’s me watching every snap of his career and knowing there’s nothing there.

Look at every statistic- he is near the bottom of the league in all of them. The fourth-quarter comebacks are great, but guess who else had a lot of those? Tim Tebow, and he was bad too.

Fans focus way too much on that, rather than wondering why they have to come from behind to beat Will Levis and the Titans, or why they have to come from behind against Tyler Huntley and the Ravens last season.

He has a very low ceiling. The Steelers aren’t winning any games of importance with him.

5.) AC: Per DraftKings, the Steelers are -1.5 in Cincinnati this weekend. What is your take on that and how do you see this one going?

JB: It’ll be low scoring and ugly, like all Steelers games, but I think they bounce back and take care of business. The Steelers have no right under-estimating anyone, especially quarterbacks. Browning and Pickett will look about even. The Steelers defense will make one more play than Cincinnati’s. I’ll say Steelers win 17-13.

Our thanks to Jarrett Bailey and to SB Nation’s Behind the Steel Curtain. Go check out their site for this week’s coverage and the other side of our conversation!