In spite of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger for four games, the team still ranks fifth in the league in terms of passing offense. It goes without saying that Roethlisberger has had quite a bit to do with that, as he leads all players in passing yards per game.
But the explosive component of the Steelers’ offense relies as much on its talented and dynamic wide receivers as it does their franchise quarterback, and the combination has been producing some spectacular numbers this year.
Last season, Pittsburgh was the only team in the league to boast five different players that put up at least 500 yards receiving. They figure to fall short of that mark this season, chiefly due to the injury to Le’Veon Bell, though DeAngelo Williams has an outside shot of getting there.
But they already have three players over 500 yards, those three being their top wide receivers, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and the recently rejuvenated Markus Wheaton. Tight end Heath Miller needs just 110 yards over the course of the last four games, assuming he plays this week, to hit 500.
The star of the show has obviously been Brown, who continues to break his own records, even in spite of the significant lapse in production that he saw without Roethlisberger. He has 93 receptions on the season for 1310 yards, which puts him on pace for 124 receptions and 1747 yards.
Bryant has only participated in the last seven games after missing the first five games of the season due to suspension and injury, but already has 31 receptions for 623 yards, averaging 89 yards per game.
Wheaton’s production has shot up since the bye week, particularly after posting just the fourth 200-yard receiving game in franchise history, and is now up to 28 receptions on the year for 524 yards. The biggest difference from this year to last is his 18.7 yards per catch figure.
All three players have been dynamic, contributing on screens as well as vertical routes. Brown has recorded 18 explosive plays so far this season, while Bryant has had 10. Wheaton is up to seven himself, with the three combining for 35 explosive passing plays.
Brown’s scoring production has taken a dip from his career-high 13 touchdowns last year, but the seven that he has this year is just one shy of his second-best career total of eight that he set in 2013.
Wheaton’s three touchdowns is already the most in his career, while Bryant is averaging a touchdown a game, with six receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in seven games played this year.
It’s somewhat scary to think what this group could have accomplished this season had it been at full capacity all year. The Steelers started without Bryant for the first five games, which slowed their transition into what they are now, and then endured four games without Roethlisberger and the accompanying diminished play as he adjusted in his return.
What they have accomplished statistically in spite of these obstacles is why opposing teams should be scared to see this offense in the playoffs.