Offense Flashes Full Potential But Still Holding Itself Back

The Pittsburgh Steelers turned in their best offensive showing of the season, but it wasn’t all pretty. In fact, there were some stretches of ugliness, and as has been the story for the last three weeks, a good chunk of it was self-inflicted.

I Tweeted during halftime that I felt good about the offense’s chances of showing up today in Baltimore and playing well. They did play well through the first half, in spite of the two stalled drives in the red zone because of foolish mistakes, but they didn’t come out of the locker room looking like the same team.

In fact, they labored through most of the second half until the running game began to take off late, the war of attrition in that regard finally beginning to swing in their favor. As something of a metaphor in testament to that fact, it was Le’Veon Bell’s 31st carry of the day that traveled the longest, a 21-yard gain.

The Steelers’ final offensive possession of the game, sans a one-play kneel down in victory formation, was a dominant effort showing the unit as they are capable of playing, sticking to the ground game. Bell ripped off gains of seven yards and then 21 to start things off, following his blockers off left end.

After another six-yard gain, he was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but they stuck with the run on third and four, and another run off left tackle picked up six.

That put the ball on the nine-yard line and set up first and goal. Given a free play, Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown hot on the slant and nearly scored, instead getting to the one-yard line. The Steelers then plugged in three tight ends—including an extra lineman—and a fullback as Bell scored his second rushing touchdown of the game.

That was their only score of the second half after putting up 19 points in the first, looking like a potent offense that was still not taking full advantage of all the opportunities they had, and it took a while for them to rediscover even that in the second half.

As I just talked about earlier today, the Steelers stalled two drives early in the game after getting first downs at the 12-yard line, beginning each drive with both a negative running play for lost yardage that was exacerbated by a bad penalty that backed them up even further. Both drives ended on plays of third and at least 25 yards to go.

The potential is on display for what this offense can be. Brown, Bell, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all made plays today, the offensive line played generally well, and Roethlisberger had a pretty strong game, despite missing on a late deep pass.

That is all well and good, but there will be times this season when they will need to be able to put all of it together in order to win. They didn’t last week and they lost. They didn’t in the other three games, either, and won.

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