Steelers offense can’t afford another abysmal outing down the stretch
By Tommy Jaggi
With a chance at the playoffs on the line, here’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t afford another dismal outing in their final three games this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gift-wrapped an early Christmas present on December 19th. A loss against the Tennesse Titans would have caused their playoffs chances to spiral into the abyss. However, thanks to Tennessee’s inability to take care of the football, the Steelers increased their playoff chances with a win in Week 15.
Despite the outcome, fans shouldn’t have unreal expectations for this team down the home stretch. While Pittsburgh is coming off a win, their lackluster offense deserves very little credit for their abysmal performances in Week 15.
Though Ben Roethlisberger was well-protected for most of the game, the veteran quarterback managed just 148 passing yards on 25 attempts for the afternoon. His 5.9 yards per attempt were remarkably low and, despite not turning the ball over, it resulted in just an 80.1 passing rating and a disgusting 12.5 QBR, via ESPN.
The rushing attack was equally as poor in Week 15. Najee Harris touted the rock 12 times for just 18 yards (1.5 yards per carry) — mounting further evidence that taking a running back with the 24th overall pick wasn’t the best idea. Harris also earned 5 targets through the air but turned this into just 8 receiving yards.
At the center of the discussion is the offensive line — a unit that has been a major issue all season for this team. Though I think this group had some pretty nice pass sets at times against the Vikings, the overall performance of this group was once again underwhelming as they offered little running room for Harris and had a few blown assignments in pass protection.
This Steelers offense won’t get the job done
I’m going to make a not-so-bold statement by saying that this offense isn’t going to get the job done down the stretch. Obviously, we all know that. Starting with the Kansas City Chiefs this week, Pittsburgh is going to get massacred if they put up another dud performance like the one we saw from them in Week 15.
So what can they do to quickly improve over the final three games? For starters, Ben Roethlisberger must start taking more shots down the field — particularly over the middle. According to Next Gen Stats, 19 of 25 pass attempts vs Titans came between -5 and 7 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Talk about capping your offensive ceiling. This is completely unacceptable. Ben completed just two passes beyond 7 air yards in this game, only attempted 1 pass of 10+ yards over the middle, and didn’t attempt a single pass of over 6 yards on the entire left side of the football field.
Obviously, in order to take more shots down the field, the offensive line must be able to hold up long enough to give Pittsburgh’s receivers a chance to get open. Perhaps leaving in an extra tight end or running back to protect could help in this department.
Being able to pass the ball down the field will keep defenses on their heels while taking defenders out of the box in the running game. This is something the Steelers have struggled with over the past few years, but they must find a way to do this down the stretch to increase their offensive ceiling and hopefully catapult themselves into the playoffs.