As I wrote about yesterday, one of the storylines that we might find ourselves in during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Patriots is who the Steelers are going to get to step up for them outside of their primarily playmakers, namely wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell.
Over the course of their first two preseason games, Pittsburgh’s offense has churned out 756 total yards. Brown has 232 of those yards on 11 receptions, while Bell has contributed with 340 total yards between the ground and the air—though, let’s face it, it has mostly come on the ground.
Together, the Steelers’ two All-Pro offensive weapons have put up 572 yards of offense over the span of the past two games, which is 75.7 percent of the team’s total offensive yardage in the playoffs. In other words, less than a quarter of their total yardage has come from the other seven players on offensive who have touched the ball.
Not that it discourages all of the Steelers’ role players, particularly not after a reportedly strong week of practice that led Eli Rogers to call Ben Roethlisberger an “equal-opportunity quarterback”, according to Jeremy Fowler in an article for ESPN.
Cobi Hamilton started this season on the practice squad, but he has managed to log quite a lot of time for the offense since he was called up in the sixth game of the season. He seems to make one important catch every week, and Fowler jokingly gave him the nickname “One-Catch Cobi”.
Hamilton laughed off the moniker, but told Fowler that “we’re all number twos”—and, really, that is probably the wise mentality to take. Especially when you consider that, with all hands finally on deck, the Steelers have been roughly evenly distributing snaps between Hamilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Demarcus Ayers.
Perhaps the team will not get that one player who gets the hot hand and steps up and is able to take advantage of all the attention being invested in taking away the Steelers’ two star playmakers on offense, but what they have been able to do for most of the season is get one or two contributions per game from a shifting cast of characters, and that has more often than not been enough.
Truth be told, I would not mind seeing Roethlisberger spreading the ball around a bit more, which is reportedly what he has been seen doing in practice this week, though, ultimately, whatever works is whatever works. I’m sure the team’s skill position players are not overly concerned with their individual numbers if it means advancing to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots may be able to take away Brown, or Bell, or maybe even both, if they’re really lucky—at least limit their effectiveness. But Pittsburgh’s offense does have a lot of other players in waiting, ready to catch that one important ball that comes their way during the game, and, frankly, it’s a role they’ve endured most of the season.