Leading up to last night’s game, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked about wanting to get as many wide receivers as much work as they could with the first-team offense. That didn’t necessarily come to fruition for multiple reasons—for one thing, Diontae Johnson was inactive, and the weather was not cooperating. Their first two drives were short as well.
But the main reason that Roethlisberger cited following the game about why they did not get to move a lot of pieces around, as he said he’d hoped they would be able to in the regular season, is because they were looking to establish a rhythm in the no huddle on the road.
“The good thing is we can throw different looks. We can do two tight ends, we can do five wides”, he said. “We didn’t get too exotic, we just kind of kept it pretty basic, but we kind of wanted to get into a flow and feel and communicate on the road, and I think we did a pretty good job”.
As mentioned, the Steelers didn’t really show those looks. The only real variance we saw was Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers alternating by drive out of the slot. JuJu Smith-Schuster was also briefly substituted while he was getting a breather, and the running backs varied a bit.
Still, with the weather conditions, the relative brevity of some of their drives, and being on the road trying to operate out of the no huddle, it’s understandable that they didn’t get the sort of variety of work in that Roethlisberger hinted at early in the week.
The one group that did perform as expected was the offensive line, as Roethlisberger was not sacked, nor hit, or really touched at all. The only damage to his jersey was some moisture from the rain. They kept him clean, even while he acknowledged that he missed some throws.
But, he said, “it was good to get out there, to get some kind of live looks and feel and things like that. I think that’s good enough. We usually don’t play in the fourth [preseason game], so we’ll be ready to go” for the start of the regular season.
What will the offense look like when they open the season? Especially considering they’re playing the New England Patriots, albeit on the road, I anticipate that we will see a lot of different looks, and perhaps a lot of four- and five-receiver sets as well.
I believe they said on the broadcast that the Steelers used those personnel groups more than any other team last season, roughly 18 percent of the time, while the league average hovered around eight percent. That was a new addition under Randy Fichtner, at least to the extent to which it was used.