It’s been a rough few weeks for the Steelers on offense. Whatever their approach offensively, be it the short passing game ala Tom Brady and Drew Brees, or a serviceable running game has faltered.
Once upon a time, the rushing attack opened their first five games of the season with at least one rusher over 100 yards and since then has run for over 70 yards total twice (Week 7 and Week 11).
A passing game built on yards after the catch and contact have receivers that have caught the yips instead in historical fashion (In three weeks, they’ve dropped 15 balls).
At this point of the season, a team is what they are. The Steelers are built to be a passing team. They have enough receivers that can make plays that defenses must respect them.
They must use the final three games to exhibit more offensive variety. There have been pledges, vows, commitments, and other fancy words to get the run game going the past few weeks.
You can talk up and down about schemes, personnel, and coaching. At the first sign of trouble in all but maybe two games since Week 6, the Steelers have abandoned the run game in favor of the quick passing attack.
It resulted in two games with 50 attempts or more for Ben Roethlisberger. It made watching any attempts in the red zone, third or fourth down akin to getting your arm ripped off.
Booger McFarland called the offensive line “soft.” Is it injuries/COVID-19 or a lack of belief that the Steelers can protect or create running lanes?
Maybe the fact that it took better than 270 snaps for Roethlisberger to get sacked is by the design of getting the ball out in three seconds or less. At some point, the line had to protect their quarterback.
There was a belief that the offensive line could create a push for those first five games.
We’ve talked about the Steelers' start to the season ad-naseum on the podcast, in tweets and articles. The Steelers won the Super Bowl in the 2008 season with the 23rd ranked rushing offense. All they needed was competence when they needed to run.
For all the worry about their performance against Buffalo, the defense was still sufficient for the most part. They limited their offense to only 19 points, with an MVP caliber quarterback, elite wide receiver, and a rushing attack that should be the new offensive blueprint.
A depleted Bengals team is coming up on Monday night. A team with solid parts but are a year or two away from being a problem. This game is an opportunity to be a pseudo-tune-up for the Steelers.
This game should be an opportunity to expand the offense and re-establish habits, beliefs, and toughness.
Maybe Ben can be the roaming gunslinger of old that created so many memorable plays in his career—allowing the new platoon of playmakers to make game-changing catches and confidence-building plays.
Maybe Conner and/or Snell can regain a pro-bowl and early season form, respectively. To provide a dimension that forces teams to jam the box and allow more chances to go vertical with said playmakers.
A new gameplan could not have come at a better time this late in the Steelers season. Ideas can be established to make the offense move at their high scoring pace again.
I don’t think an offense can hit rock bottom any harder than it has in the past three weeks, but the good news it’s right now. Where the highest consequence is the loss of home-field advantage and a first-round bye compared to playoff elimination.
The Steelers have a unique opportunity to re-establish themselves at 11-2. They can not let this go to waste.