Steelers' Offense Hasn't Learned A Thing

Matt Steel liked the defensive performance, but the offense, well, here's his take ...

I'm not going to overly get negative about the offense. I did that last week. I don't want to sound like a broken record. So I'm asking you readers to do me a favor: Can you please notice how many more points the Steelers score when once in a blue moon they do have a balanced run/pass ratio? Will you please take notice in how often Ben Roethlisberger takes sacks out of empty backfield sets? Or how drives that start extremely well by running the ball stall as soon as they go empty backfield on first or second down? Because I don't want to sound like a broken record here.

I understand the logic of trying to attack what is a supposed weak secondary. I don't agree they need to get away from balance to do it. Most of the time, success requires a step backward (patience) in order to take multiple steps forward. Had that weak secondary had to worry about a steady commitment toward run defense, they more than likely would have been burned a few times yesterday. Most of the time, they didn't have to concern themselves with the Steelers handing the ball off more than once in a row.

Why wouldn't the Steelers play to their strength rather then solely trying attack another team's weakness? Wasn't it the Steelers who led the NFL in rushing and yards per carry after the first three weeks of the season? It was the perfect opportunity to balance their own strength against their opponent's weakness.

The Steelers have seemed to make a concerted effort to run more play-action the last two weeks. It's been successful. I like it. Please also take notice of how when Ben gets extra protection off of play-action, it allows him to hold the ball and actually escape the pocket and allow receivers to get open when the play is originally covered, as he did a few times Sunday. That ability to make something happen on play-action when the initial play isn't there is why I believe he is one of the greatest play-action quarterbacks of all time. His propensity to want to hold the ball and try to make a play in a pass heavy, empty backfield/shotgun-heavy offense is why I believe he will likely never lead a top-5 scoring offense. He'll make plays in those situations every now and then. But those situations are a ticking, drive-stalling time bomb. Every coach and coordinator since Bill Cowher left seems to want to appease the $100 million man who so badly wants to be viewed and treated in the same fashion as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. No one seems to be willing to tell the franchise what is best for him.

I would be all for a pass heavy/dinky offense if I thought it could win them championships. I know without a doubt it NEVER will. If they do somehow win, I would gladly write about how horribly wrong I was on my assessment. But it will never come to that point. Everything I've seen in this game suggests tough running games and balance are vital to a championship run. Tom Brady has yet to win a championship since the Patriots' balanced attack with Corey Dillon departed. For all his impressive numbers, Peyton Manning has one Super Bowl title. That year Bob Sanders led a defense that played at an elite level. Joseph Addai or Dominic Rhodes ran for 100 or more yards in each playoff game. That team overcame Peyton's inconsistency, his six interceptions during the playoffs.

I had hoped Mike Tomlin learned something from the Seahawks and 49ers last season. He didn't.

I hoped he had recognized the Baltimore Ravens nearly 50/50 run-pass ratio during their championship run in 2012. He didn't.

I hoped he'd recognize the struggles teams with franchise QBs are having (outside of Peyton Manning) in their pass-heavy offenses. I had hoped he would recognize the Cowboys' 4-1 start and how important their commitment to run has been with that success. He hasn't.

I had hoped he had recognized the strengths and weaknesses in Ben's game that I've seen over the last decade, and then provide a balanced attack that best utilizes his strengths. He hasn't.

So it is what it is, I guess. If it hasn't changed by now, it's not going to change.

I suppose I'll continue to try to figure out how a fullback who can run a curl pattern and come back to the ball better then a lot of wide receivers can hardly get on the field.

I continue to wonder why they'll run three consecutive passes to their smurf receivers in what seems like every possession in the red zone.

I'll wonder weekly if LeGarette Blount is in the dog house, until I finally see him get on the field near the end of the first half.

I'll wonder if anyone on that staff will see how the empty backfield sacks and the over-reliance of line-of-scrimmage passes continuously stops drives.

I have a new Steelers friend, who, after yesterday's game, said the only thing he can hang his hat on with this team is its special-teams coverage units. He was half-kidding, of course. There were some bright spots, specifically on defense.

Cortez Allen played a good game. Confidence and comfort level goes a long way for a cornerback. Let's hope those have been reasons for Cortez's struggles.

It's time to recognize that Steve McLendon has played really well since the first game of the season. Every time I focused in him during a play, he got push into the backfield. I'll be interested in seeing if he bounces back against Alex Mack this week.

I enjoyed seeing Stephon Tuitt flash with one of his snaps. I thought he made the Jason Worilds sack happen.

Several media members seem to be impressed with the game Worilds played Sunday. I wasn't. He was solid, yes. But I wanted to see dominance against the stiff trying to block him. I didn't see that. I remember last Thanksgiving against Baltimore and thinking he was the best player on the field for both teams. I haven't had thoughts remotely close to that since.

I read the story about Brice McCain saying "I'm going to be somebody," and as he crossed the goal line I hoped he was right. That's the type of anticipation that's been missing in Steelers corners for quite some time. The last time I remember seeing a play on the ball like that for a TD was Chad Scott against Tampa Bay on a Monday night in 2002.

I've noticed the Steelers seem to be playing tighter coverage more frequently. Good, force these guys to complete back shoulder throws on a consistent basis. To Steelers opponents, I say good luck with that.

Count me among those who are cautiously optimistic considering they went up against an offense that was playing seven rookies.

Finally, count me among those who wasn't a fan of seeing Roethlisberger and the staff agree to extend Antonio Brown's meaningless streak. Half the time, those are catches at the line of scrimmage. It's easier to pile up catch stats in this offense compared to others. I'm starting to think there should be a separate category of catches for those made 5 yards and then 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Really the most important stat during Brown's 21-game streak is the Steelers' mediocre 11-10 record. Running that play to continue the streak only furthered the disappointment I was already feeling. Anytime a player focuses on anything other then winning, it says something to me. That edge to win a championship has to be so disciplined and focused. That action displays neither of those two championship qualities. I can't imagine for the life of me Tim Duncan looking to extend a Tony Parker double-digit assist streak. Or Parker trying to extend a Duncan double-double streak. Neither player would want that. That team is so singularly focused on winning, they'd never send any message that contradicts that to themselves or the rest of their teammates. They never play for any sort of statistic. That is one of the primary reasons those players have won five and four championships, respectively.

However low the risk was, it's still a risk. They slightly opened the door to potential defeat to achieve some type of individual accolade. That to me is not a good sign about this team being solely focused on winning. It didn't send a positive message to the rest of the team either.


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