For the debut of a new offense with a lot of turnover along the offensive line and the skill positions, as well as on the coaching staff, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive debut on Sunday against a good Buffalo Bills defense, on the road, could have certainly gone worse. While they were forced to punt on every drive in the first half, and they stalled in the red zone a couple of times in the second, they did score on every meaningful possession following halftime as they began to find a rhythm.
That also happens to be when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger started having more success with his wide receivers and finding them on-target. Second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool, for example, was held without a catch in the first half, but he caught three for 55 yards in the second. He also had a 25-yard reverse run, and drew a defensive pass interference penalty that accounted for another 26. Add all that up, and his contributions tally up to 106 yards.
“Chase played like a grown man”, his quarterback, Roethlisberger, said of him yesterday. “Some of his catches down the field” in particular he noted as very impressive. “It’s either a catch or it’s a penalty, and that’s what we preach to him all the time, that he should be unstoppable”.
Claypool is a true physical specimen. He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash time last year at 6’4” and around 240 pounds. He made an immediate impact as a rookie, and finished last season with 62 catches for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, along with another two rushing touchdowns. He also caught another two touchdown passes in their one postseason game.
Still, the Steelers’ passing game is a work in progress at the start of this season, even with continuity at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. They have almost an entirely new offensive line, which features two rookie starters, along with a new starting running back and tight end, while they also have new coaches at offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, offensive line coach, and tight ends coach, as well.
Roethlisberger completed only 18 of 32 pass attempts during the game for 188 yards, throwing one touchdown to Diontae Johnson, while he did not turn the ball over (though he did fumble once on a sack, recovered by Chukwuma Okorafor).
Much of that is on just the quarterback, admittedly, but the good news is that he looked sharper in the second half than he did in the first, as did, really, the entire offense as a whole. Even the running game was a bit more effective in the second half, so hopefully that is an indication of better things to come.