It wasn’t so long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were among the best teams in the league in terms of putting points on the board early in the game. That has not been the case this season by any means, as they have compiled a total of zero points over the course of the first two games in the first quarter. They know this has to change.
Especially against a hot offensive team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who bear some resemblance to the team that just beat them, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers’ struggles on offense helped the Chiefs kickstart the game with a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. They were able to climb back to 21-21 by halftime, but couldn’t keep up in the second half following that exertion.
“On the road, it’s definitely important to start fast”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters recently heading into tonight’s game. Stating the obvious, he said that “if you can put pressure on the other team, that’s always better”.
He also reminded us that “the other team is trying not to let us start fast. A lot of times, whether you’re playing a common opponent or someone new, you’re kind of feeling each other out early”. While he said that “doesn’t mean you’re not trying to score”, he did add that “you might be throwing different personnel groups out there to see what the defense is going to do, to see how they are going to line up”.
That allows you to scout for what you can expect to see later in the game, and thus how you can attack it, which is always advantageous. But that doesn’t do you a lot of good if you’re trailing by double digits early on.
Tight end Jesse James sees the need for the offense to “start faster” than in the past two games as well. “We’ve kept having guys taking turns making mistakes”, he said, and that included himself in the season opener, dropping a pass that was intercepted.
Failing to get off to a good start—especially when the other team does—puts any team at a major disadvantage because it has the effect of making the offense more one-dimensional, as we saw last week. There were only a handful of carries because the Steelers were constantly climbing out of deep holes.
The Buccaneers…well, they scored 11 seconds in to the game last week on a 75-yard touchdown pass to open things up. They would punt and throw an interception on their next four possessions, however, before closing the half with two more touchdowns. In the season opener, they scored three touchdowns and a field goal on their first four drives.