The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the offense start carrying its share of the load soon?
For the most part, the Steelers’ ability to go on a four-game win streak has been driven by the defense, and that, frankly, has been largely thanks to Minkah Fitzpatrick. He has four interceptions, a fumble recovery, and two defensive touchdowns over the course of the past three games.
And they didn’t win any of the games during that span by more than a possession. It’s usually been close. Down to the last drive. Always hanging in the balance. It’s been close because the offense hasn’t been putting up big numbers.
Some of that has been on Mason Rudolph, but overall, he’s done his job. The inconsistency of his playmakers—all three of his top wide receiver made costly errors with drops and fumbles last night—and the utter lack of a run game more often than not, have been major hindrances.
Yet this team does have the talent. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a proven commodity who can always do more. We’ve seen the potential of both Diontae Johnson and James Washington, the latter coming off a pair of nice games now.
And we know the offensive line is one of the best in the league, at least in pass protection. They are capable run-blockers as well when they have running backs to block for. How much of a help will it be once James Conner and Benny Snell get back?
Because as good as the defense is playing, it’s hard to believe the Steelers can get much further without the offense picking up the slack. They have a pretty light schedule with five games against losing teams, and could still make the playoffs, but this looks like a one-and-done team if they make it to the postseason the way the offense looks right now.