Mike Tomlin Predicts Steelers as Top Offense…Obviously
Mike Tomlin recently made some headlines when he predicted the Steelers could have the top offense in the league for the upcoming season. That prediction fits right in the shared space on the Venn diagram of bold and obvious. By its very nature it’s a bold statement, but given the evidence it’s fairly, to use our favorite Tomlinism, obvious.
ESPN reporter Scott Brown reported that during the NFL owners meetings Mike Tomlin said,
"“My expectation is they’re capable of being the very best because we’ve got the goods. We’ve got guys that are capable, we’ve got guys that know what they’re doing, we’ve got guys that played together for an extended period of time now so that’s a reasonable expectation.”"
The most, well, obvious, reason to buy into this possibility is the presence of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, three of the best players, if not the best, at their respective skill positions.
Le’Veon Bell has been called by many, including the great LaDainian Tomlinson himself, the best running back in the league. He’s extremely well rounded in his running style, blocking, and receiving. He also protects the ball well. You’d suspect Tomlinson would know a thing or two on the matter but if you were doubtful it’s tough to argue with the 1361 rushing yards, 854 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns, and 0 fumbles he had last season.
Let’s not assume he’s peaked either. Brown is only 26 and every single season he’s had since being drafted in the 6th round in 2010 has been an improvement on the previous.
He’s not just good, he’s in some ways revolutionizing a position once thought nonessential in the modern pass happy NFL. The best part is it’s on his third NFL season coming up. He can still improve. Based on the dramatic change he made between his first and second season it’s not a stretch to think he will improve.
Antonio Brown is another Steeler frequently labelled “best in the league.” His record breaking year in 2014 turned heads and opened eyes. You cannot stop this guy from catching footballs. He had almost 1700 yards receiving on 129 catches with 13 touchdowns, all while handling punt returns too.
Let’s not assume he’s peaked either. Brown is only 26 and every single season he’s had since being drafted in the 6th round in 2010 has been an improvement on the previous. The guy eats doubt for breakfast with skim milk.
Ben, seems like he’s been the QB for the Steelers my whole life, though part of that might be because I’ve blocked out the Kordell years (still love ya Kordell, we had some good times). Ben has been having himself a Benassaince lately. This is a new Ben.
Roethlisberger threw 48 yards short of 5k and had 32 touchdowns with only 9 interceptions last year. He broke records and looked great. Big Ben is throwing better than he ever has. Consider that and the fact that he’s been to three Super Bowls, and you’ve got plenty to be excited about.
The rest of the team has plenty to be excited about as well.
The offensive line, under the tutelage of Mike Munchak, became respectable, even good last year. Pouncey is always a dominant force. Foster was solid and Gilbert seemed to finally get some consistency. Beachum quietly became a very good left tackle. DeCastro looks primed to breakout in his third year having established himself as one of the top pulling guards in the league.
They also were relatively healthy throughout the year. Ben played his second 16 game season in a row, he had his lowest sack percentage of his career, and the running game was dominant. Another season under Mike Munchak could push this fairly young unit to the next level.
Besides the killer Bs of Ben, Bell, and Brown we also have a lot to look forward to in the other skill positions. At tight end Heath Miller is going to be the rock he’s always been while Spaeth is going to continue to be a great blocker. The other WRs however, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, are probably the most likely factor in taking this offense to the next level.
Wheaton got his first real season in his second year after being drafted and gradually turned into a solid number two who could make a clutch first down catch. Wheaton runs solid routes but could improve in the endzone.
Martavis Bryant exploded after being activated halfway through the season and became a touchdown machine. The sky is the limit for Bryant with his height and speed. Bryant could improve his route running.
The trajectory of the offense was not coincidentally the trajectory of Wheaton and Bryant last year. They both have some room to improve and there’s little reason to expect they won’t.
Add on a strong backup RB in DeAngelo Williams, not to mention the as yet unrealized potential in Dri Archer as a bonus.
As a whole, the thing to remember about the Steelers offense is it didn’t become the juggernaut triplets, unstoppable O of 2014 until about halfway through the season. For the first 7 games the Steelers averaged 384 yards and 22 points per game and for the last 9 averaged 430 yards and over 31 points per game.
The Todd Haley master plan is finally coming together. Big Ben is finally a true pocket passer. All signs suggest these guys are just getting started.
When you consider all this, and the fact that with a slow start the Steelers were still 5 yards from being the number one offense, Tomlin’s claim stops sounding bold and starts seeming … obvious.
Next: Tomlin Wants D to Dominate
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