I don’t think I would be stepping out of line if I were to suggest that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense underwhelmed during the first half of the 2017 regular season. The team as a whole is averaging just 20.9 points per game, 20th in the league, and you can take a full point off of that thanks to a defensive touchdown and a safety if you want to factor in only the offense.
The Steelers have been held to under 20 points three times this season, and have only bettered the 25-point mark three times. They have not his 30 points scored in a game—their previous benchmark for success that they have since abandoned—even once.
There are a number of contributing factors. The offensive line has had to round into form, and has, frankly, faced some tough opponents, including a number 4-3 fronts that they have a tougher time with. New and returning pieces have been an issue as well.
But at the end of the day, the Steelers are 6-2, tied for the best record in the conference. And for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, “the number one thing is winning”, he told reporters yesterday. Because of course it is. You play to win the game!
“I don’t think we’ve played our best ball offensively”, he admitted, “but we’re in good position. The second half of the season”, he said, will hopefully see “things…really get rolling”. And that will have to include quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger, statistically, is having one of the worst seasons of his career by a comfortable margin, on pace for just 20 touchdowns passes and 18 interceptions, even though he is, oddly, in the top five in passing yards temporarily because the Steelers have not had their bye week yet.
This team, and this offense, however, is not new to adversity by any means. That can simply recall the struggle of the middle of last season when they lost four games in a row. Haley was asked about how his players deal with adversity.
“Same as it always is. We’ve got a resilient group, the majority of whom have been here for an extended period of time. We’ve been through ups and downs. All of us that were here last year know what the perception was when we lost four in a row and there was unwavering focus from the group”.
While there have certainly been some notable chinks in the armor in that regard—let’s just say it, basically Martavis Bryant creating, in Mike Tomlin’s words, “somewhat of a distraction” Haley believes in his players. “We’ve got a good group of guys that stick together and that I think don’t try to be too affected by outside noise”, he said.
The group will collectively try to make some noise during the second half of the season, building off a three-game winning streak in which the passing and rushing offense have both had intermittent success. Maybe at one point over the course of the next eight weeks they will manage to put together one of those ‘complete games’ we hear about.