Training camp is now upon us, in case you have failed to take notice. The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to Latrobe on July 28, and began practicing the following day in preparation for their first preseason game on August 12, and eventually, for the 2016 regular season in April.
Every NFL season is like an investigation of sorts, with the offseason and preseason serving as the fact-finding portion, gathering the questions that are most prudent to ask in order to understand the story of the team in the current season. And it is in training camp that we really begin to start finding the answers to those questions.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in training camp and the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Can the Steelers really score 30 points per game?
It has not gone unnoticed that the Steelers have really begun to prosper on the offensive side of the ball over the course of the past couple of seasons. The team and the players themselves have noticed, which is why quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last season set a goal of averaging 30 points per game.
While the Steelers as a team fell short of that goal, in large part due to Roethlisberger’s injury, they actually did hit that average mark in the second half of the season, and in fact set a franchise record in scoring 30 or more points in five straight games.
It would be hard to argue that Pittsburgh does not have the ability to score 30 points per game, if you scour their roster and look at the sort of athletes and football players that they have available to them, not just at the skill positions, but along the offensive line as well.
While the left tackle position is a bit of a wildcard, with the return of Maurkice Pouncey, the rest of the line is about as stable as you will find in the rest of the league, and I don’t think that the return of the All-Pro center should be overlooked.
Antonio Brown is still very much Antonio Brown, and while they may be without Martavis Bryant, they have a number of other options among the pass catchers, including the running backs and tight ends. And they have the backs to run the ball as well.
But the Steelers have had a hard time getting out of their own way lately, with Bryant and Le’Veon Bell dealing with suspensions and injuries limiting what the offense can do on a weekly basis. Consistency, including from the quarterback position, also remains a concern.
Roethlisberger in many ways last season had his best year, but his ball security was disappointingly lacking, and ended too many drives prematurely with interceptions, and too few with touchdowns. A change on that front would be hard to deduce in training camp, however.
What I want to see is how Ladarius Green looks with Roethlisberger when he gets on the field. I want to see Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates in three-wide-receiver sets and how they work together. I want to see Pouncey working with the rest of the line getting to the second level and pulling and how their chemistry looks.
Most importantly, I want to see how consistently they do these things well, because that has been the biggest problem in recent years. It’s one thing to have excellence, and another to show it consistently. Averaging 30 points per game requires consistent excellence. Can Wheaton be a consistent player? Can Green? Can Green? And how will the offense adjust to the new-look tight end set up? These—and the appeal ruling on Bell’s suspension—will be the biggest determining factors, I think.