Steelers Offense Too Strong to Bet Against
Conditions look bleak for the black-and-gold, with unfortunate injuries and suspensions ruling the pre-season. Just remind yourself: In Ben We Trust.
Can we just start the damn season already?
The Steelers’ month of August was a slog. Hard-to-watch preseason games ended in losses. Important players suffered injuries. Your cousin complained incessantly on Facebook about Michael Vick.
And oh boy, we still have one more exhibition game to go.
Let’s assume things don’t get worse around Heinz Field (Can yellow seats cause polio?), that the Steelers don’t lose any more big-name players. They’ll still be heading into the opener against the Patriots short-handed, with no Le'Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant or Maurkice Pouncey on offense.
Not what you want going up against the Super Bowl Champions, with or without Tom Brady.
Worse still is the defense. I’m not talking about the defense giving up 43 points to the Buffalo Bills last week. It was a preseason game without a genuine game plan — who cares?
I’m talking about the defense that was awful in 2014. I’m going to throw a lot of letters at you, but the Steelers D ranked 30th in the NFL in DVOA last season, basically a metric that looks at every play result adjusted to the strength of the opponent.
So take that same horrendous defense from a year ago. Remove Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and Jason Worilds. Add … Mike Mitchell and Bud Dupree, I guess. The Steelers defense is only a “question mark” if it’s ending the sentence, “Just how bad will the defense be?”
I just wrote a bunch of things that sound really bad! Why, you may ask, am I not jumping off one of Pittsburgh’s plentiful bridges with regards to the city’s football team?
It’s the offense. That Sweet. Wonderful. Offense.
More advanced stats coming your way — the Steelers offense ranked 2nd in DVOA last year, and top 5 in almost every metric involving Expected Points Added and Win Probability Added. Translation: this is one of the most efficient offensive units in football.
Here’s what that offense did after a most unpleasant 3-3 start to last season: averaged 419.8 yards per game (including 327 passing yards per game) and 31.2 points, all of which would be the best in the NFL if stretched out to a full season. The Steelers offense became an absurd passing juggernaut.
All it needs is a fancy nickname such as The Pittsburgh Air Show, or something better from a nickname writer more creative than I.
Somehow at age 33, Ben Roethlisberger is better than ever. He set career bests in yardage, completion percentages, touchdowns, QBR and sack rate. Proper credit, of course, to offensive coordinator Todd Haley and playmakers Antonio Brown (NFL-best 129 catches and 1,698 receiving yards, in case you forgot), Bell and Markus Wheaton. When plays break down, somehow one of these guys is able to shake loose and open up for a completion.
So I think the Steelers can survive two games without Bell and four games without Bryant as they serve their suspensions for acts of foolishness. They’ll be back before you can say, “another drop by Darrius Heyward-Bey.”
Yes, the Steelers have the NFL’s toughest schedule looming. Know who has the second-toughest schedule? The Cincinnati Bengals, the team with whom the black-and-gold will likely go punch-for-punch for the last AFC playoff spot. You take on the task you’re given.
And there is no other offense more up to the task than the Roethlisberger-led Steelers. If Ben wards off the evil spirits of injury, lightning-rod Vick won’t have to wear anything more than a visor, and the Steelers will be lighting up scoreboards on their way to another playoff run.
That is, if the regular season ever actually starts.