Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not hold back yesterday when he set the bar for his team’s offensive production headed into the 2015 season, essentially saying that the sky is the limit.
“My expectation is they’re capable of being the very best because we have the goods”, he told the gathered media, which is certainly not something that a Steelers head coach has been able to say very often throughout the organization’s history.
This offense, however, put up more points per game than any other dating back to the franchise’ origins, save one, which ended up with a Super Bowl championship in the 70s. And there is reason to believe that the offense could be even better in 2015.
Tomlin said that the Steelers have the goods, and there is little use arguing the point. The team sent four offensive players to the Pro Bowl last year in wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Le’Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncey, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
In the cases of the former three players named, their accolades extended beyond an invitation to participate in an exhibition game of mixed conference rosters, as they were all named to the first-team All-Pro team. It was the first time that the Steelers had three offensive players named to the All-Pro team since 2004.
The Steelers have in place a franchise quarterback that has multiple Super Bowl rings and is playing his best football now, leading the league in passing yards a season ago and tying a career-high in touchdowns while posting a career-low in interception rate.
While Bell had a remarkable season in his second year, there is still room to grow on his part as he continues to learn how to turn large gains into home runs. His scoring production was on the upswing by season’s end, and I expect that to continue.
While it’s hard to imagine Brown improving from having the best season a Steelers wide receiver has ever had, setting franchise marks in receptions, receiving yardage, and receiving touchdowns, an even comparable season from him should suffice.
And the team expects Roethlisberger to have more targets to spread the ball around to as Markus Wheaton and, in particular, Martavis Bryant continue to develop in their second seasons each of meaningful contribution.
Add in a former Pro Bowl talent at tight end in Heath Miller, one of the few remaining two-way threats at the position as a receiver and blocker, and a future Pro Bowl talent in right guard David DeCastro, and the case could certainly be made that the Steelers have, at the moment, the potential to have their best offense of all time.
Which will be critical as they hope to reignite their championship ambitions, returning last year to the postseason for the first time since 2011. The Steelers are in the process of reconstructing their defense on the fly, which means that more weight will be placed on the shoulders of the offense than ever before during Roethlisberger’s tenure with the team. The organization believes he is up to the task, and about to enter the most productive five-year period of his career.