While they have managed to get out to a 2-1 start to the season, I think it would be disingenuous to deny that the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has not lived up to its talent level that they have available to them. Short of perennial All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, who already leads the league in both receptions and receiving yards, virtually everybody has underwhelmed.
The Steelers’ offense has scored just six touchdowns through three games, adding five field goals on top of it for 11 scores on 33 drives, meaning that they only produce points on 33 percent of their drives, which ranks 18th in the league. Their 1.73 points scored per drive is little better, ranking 17th.
And it’s not for lack of possession. Their average drive length is just in the top 10 in the league, as is their average starting field position. So top 10 in opportunities, yet just below the median range in productivity, which is a bad combination.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knows the role that he has played in this, and it was great to hear him talk about it yesterday, and more notably, make note of some very specific issues that he has demonstrated over the course of the first three weeks of the season.
Not that either is much of a surprise I think who tune into the games on a weekly basis, but Roethlisberger acknowledged, at long last, that he zeroes in on targeting Brown too frequently, as something of a crutch. Sometimes it works out, as it did in the opener against the Browns. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly.
Of 42 targeted passes by Roethlisberger on Sunday, 15 went in Brown’s direction. Of 80 targeted passes over the first two weeks, 27 have gone to Brown. So all told, over the course of the first three games, he has targeted Brown on 42 of his 122 targeted passes, representing a 34-percent share of the targets.
In comparison, Martavis Bryant has been targeted 21 times. Le’Veon Bell has been targeted 17 times. And Jesse James has been targeted 19 times. Only Bryant comes even halfway to seeing Brown’s total number of targets.
The other thing that Roethlisberger acknowledged is that he has not been taking the plays that the defense is giving him often enough, instead looking for an option further down the field. Perhaps, after leading the league last season with 13 touchdown passes on deep throws, it has gotten even more tempting.
With the quarterback openly acknowledging that he needs to approve, and even identifying clear and specific areas in which he needs to improve, I do find myself hopeful that the offense will address them and mitigate them.