The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers finally have the intermediate and deep passing game back on track.
Explanation: Ben Roethlisberger was terrible throwing down the field against the Cincinnati Bengals. He was great, particularly in the second half, doing it on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The question is now whether or not we’re dealing with recency bias or there has been tangible and reproducible improvement. The reality is that we won’t know for two weeks.
We’re not going to learn much about what the deep passing game will be like in the playoffs from Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, for the simple reason being that Roethlisberger won’t be playing. But he probably would be playing had he not found the deep ball, as the Steelers surely would have lost that game without it, and thus they would have more to play for.
The important point here is that the deep passing game, like the field goal unit, is a process. There are a lot of moving parts, more than on shorter passes, on which it’s easier for things to go wrong. The Steelers made in-game and halftime adjustments, and it worked.
It wasn’t ever just Roethlisberger. Guys were also dropping the ball deep. And now that he’s started to hit on it, it will open up the offense further, making them less predictable, including when they actually take deep shots, which should only lead to more success.
This is just a decent Benny Snell game. Every time it happens, a bunch of people convince themselves that he’s the answer, and then he plays like he usually does, which is not a starter. Roethlisberger’ deep passing game is similar, and one half of a game isn’t going to change that.
Let’s not forget the fact that there were a few passes in the game that could have been intercepted as well. If the defense made those plays, we would be having a much different conversation about Roethlisberger’s performance throwing the ball down the field—more similar to the one we were having after the Bengals game, actually.