2017 South Side Questions: Has Big Ben And Passing Game Turned A Corner?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Has Ben Roethlisberger, and by extension the passing offense, turned a corner?

This could prove to be the single biggest question facing the Steelers. As I wrote after Thursday’s game, if the offense has Ben Roethlisberger playing the way he did for most of that game, including pretty much the entirety of the second half, and the start and end of the first, then they have an offense that can beat any team, anywhere, in any situation.

But we also have to contend with the reality that that performance was as much an aberration on the season to date as was his five-interception performance. And if we’re going to let him off the hook for some of those interceptions, then Antonio Brown needs substantial credit for his first and last touchdowns on outstanding individual efforts.

But Roethlisberger was hitting throws in windows he had not been for long stretches of the season, and his deep ball accuracy was better, even if it didn’t connect as often as one would have liked. It does help that one that did connect was a 41-yard touchdown.

Brown is, of course, always going to be Brown. He never has a bad game, and rarely even has an average one. JuJu Smith-Schuster has come along nicely, though he is still a rookie with much of the baggage that typically goes along with the tag.

We still don’t really know what is there with Martavis Bryant. We don’t know how big a role Eli Rogers can play. we don’t know what kind of chemistry exists between Roethlisberger and Vance McDonald. And frankly they haven’t been getting as much out of Le’Veon Bell as they have in the past—certainly not number two receiver productivity.

The next six games will go a long way toward determining exactly what this passing offense is going to be heading into the postseason. And that passing offense is going to go a long way toward determining whether their Super Bowl aspirations are legitimate.

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