(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Through 14 games this season, the Steelers' offense really looks no different than the 2020 version under Randy Fichtner. The run game stinks, Ben Roethlisberger gets the ball out quick and is stationary, and they're awful at play-action. According to Next Gen Stats, the Steelers rank 31st in play-action usage this season at 18%. The Steelers have ranked in the bottom two in play-action usage for six consecutive seasons.
The reason for the play-action usage being so low is a combination of factors, but Michael Lombardi of The Athletic believes Ben Roethlisberger just doesn't like running it.
"(Roethlisberger) hates playing under center, never wanting to turn his back to the defense, thus eliminating the play-action passes that might help the Steelers’ offense make chunk plays down the field," Lombardi wrote this past February.
As mentioned, the Steelers running game is still horrendous. The Steelers rank 31st in rushing this season, averaging 84.6 yards per game. They ranked 32nd in rushing in 2020, averaging 82.5 yards per game. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm have failed miserably in fixing the running game. In fact, Klemm is reported to be one-and-done as the offensive line coach, as he's accepted a position with Oregon to be their line coach. He'll finish out the last three games with the Steelers.
With how things are going, Canada might just be one-and-done, as well. The Steelers have not scored a touchdown in the first half in their last four games and are averaging just 20.8
points per game, which ranks 20th in the league. The Steelers averaged 26.6 points per game under Fichtner, which ranked 12th.
The offensive line was pretty bad last year, but they've been even worse this season, as they've allowed 33 sacks. The offensive line last year was terrible in run blocking, but they were efficient in pass blocking at least, allowing a league-low 14 sacks.
Given the state of the offensive line, Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now doesn't have an issue with the Steelers being 31st in play-action usage this season because they’re just not very good at running it. Farabaugh notes that Roethlisberger has been sacked on at least half of the play-action plays they run.
Maybe Canada needs a mobile quarterback and a chance to run actually his offense. The early results haven't been encouraging, however. But one thing is clear, this is Roethlisberger's offense. Nothing has changed from last year. And, honestly, all of this was painfully predictable.