The Pittsburgh Steelers were not very good on offense in virtually any aspect last season. Whether it was drive length, scoring, yards, third down, red zone, whatever you can think of, the Steelers were almost surely bad at it.
The opposite was true the year before, really the years before that, actually boasting some of the most talented offenses in the league. Last night’s victory over the New York Giants showed glimmers of that former offense in the 26-16 victory, 26 points being a mark they only reached four times last season, with a high of 27.
The key catalyst for the turnaround was the Steelers’ final drive before halftime. Getting the ball at their own 22, down by one point, with 1:32 to play and two timeouts left, Ben Roethlisberger led a 78-yard scoring drive in which he accounted for all of the yardage, including an 11-yard scramble.
A lot of people contributed on that drive, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, who hauled in two of his six catches on the night then, first for 17 yards on second and 10 from the 45-yard line, then again for 14 yards on another 2nd-and-10 from the Giants’ 38.
“It brought back memories”, he said of working the two-minute offense with Roethlisberger back this year. “I was telling Diontae, I was like, ‘man, if feels so much different’. You do two-minutes in practice, and it’s like, you’re not as winded because of the competition level—it’s there, but it’s not like an actual game”.
“Us being out there right before half, having two minutes to go down and put points on the board, we felt like, ‘okay, that’s Ben, that’s the Ben we know’”, he added. “Being able to go down, put points on the board, drive, that’s what we do”.
I can recall a time earlier in Smith-Schuster’s career in which he sat in awe of Roethlisberger working the two-minute offense, such as during the early 2018 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Steelers led the league in points scored in the final two minutes of halves that year. So far they have seven points this year.
“That was a good drive for us”, Roethlisberger himself admitted. “The guys were protecting up front, and my ball is just to get the ball out of my hand as fast as I can and give it to the playmakers, and that’s what we did. We got the ball in the hands of guys that made plays for us, and we took it down the field and put points on the board at the end of the half, like we always want to”.
“I’m just disappointed we didn’t do it at the beginning of the second half”, he added, as the Steelers took a 16-10 lead into halftime, starting the third quarter with the ball. Pittsburgh did manage to add another 10 points in the second half to the Giants’ six, but you know they wanted more.