The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will the Steelers hit their 30 points per game goal that they have set once again for this season?
I don’t think it’s very easy to find a player who is a bigger advocate for his teammates in the NFL today than Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger his for his offensive personnel. I can’t ever remember an occasion in which he threw a teammate under the bus, even if he might have questioned the play-calling in a post-loss heat-of-the-moment interview on rare occasions.
The point is, however, that Roethlisberger believes so much in his teammates’ abilities that he believes they can achieve the still fairly uncommon feat of averaging 30 points per game scored over the duration of the entire season. It is a goal that he set for the offense in 2015, and which he renewed recently for 2016 after they came up short.
As I pointed out yesterday, the Steelers did actually average comfortably over 30 points per game over the course of the second half of the regular season, but for the team to do it over the course of a full season would simply be to really buck trends. They have only come within three points per game of that goal once or twice in their history.
Only in recent years has it even become common for multiple teams to reach that plateau in the same season, though at least one team has done it in every season since 2009. The Steelers will be attempting to become the first group in franchise history to join that fraternity, but they will already be starting short-handed without the services of Martavis Bryant, arguably their third-most explosive player.
The Steelers are also counting on the healthy returns of two All-Pros at running back and center, are transitioning from an 11-year veteran at tight end to a new sort of tight end that they have never attempted to integrate into the offense before, and are counting on either a journeyman or a relative novice to secure the blindside of the offensive line. Those are all red flags, and road blocks on the road to 30 points per game.
I don’t mean to be the pessimist—check that, that is exactly the point of this article—but the simple fact is that whenever such an event happens that relies so much on longevity, it requires that a lot of things have gone right, and chief among them tends to be health, the biggest and most frustratingly unpredictable variable annually. The Steelers had some bad luck last year, but even with good luck, the goal is still a lofty one, even if they have the talent on paper to make good on it.