Had it not been for him sitting out the regular season finale, Ben Roethlisberger would’ve led the NFL in passing attempts last season. He still finished with the third most, slightly behind Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. Though Roethlisberger was coming off serious elbow surgery that could’ve ended his career, the Steelers asked him to throw, and throw, and throw some more. Mike Tomlin knows that wasn’t the plan but in speaking with Stephen A. Smith on First Take, admits the team didn’t have any other option.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Tomlin said. “In the midst of it, we knew it was a mistake. We did what we had to do in order to keep the trains moving.”
Asking Roethlisberger to throw was the only source of offense last season. Even that aspect was far from perfect but in order to comeback to beat teams like the Ravens or a critical Week 16 game against the Colts to win the North, having Roethlisberger be the entire offense was the only way to win.
During one stretch, Roethlisberger threw the ball 40+ times in five straight games. Over the course of one season, it’s tied for the sixth longest streak of games with 40+ attempts in NFL history. Here’s the list.
Carson Wentz – 7 (2019)
Drew Bledsoe – 7 (1995)
Matthew Stafford – 6 (2012)
Joe Flacco – 6 (2016)
Andrew Luck – 6 (2014)
Multiple tied at 5 (including Roethlisberger)
Most of that was a product of a league-worst run game. Which Tomlin freely admitted in the interview.
“Our run game was not up to snuff a year ago. We struggled in that area. We struggled to stay on schedule in the run component when the run component was a significant component of what we did. So we had to lean on him. And it largely got us out of stadiums. But as you all know, we didn’t finish in the manner in which we would’ve liked to. And there’s consequences for that.”
Consequences to that including a completely revamped offensive line, new offensive coordinator, new head and assistant offensive line coach, along with their first four picks spent on offense, lead by RB Najee Harris 24th overall. Tomlin’s goal is to get the run game out of the basement it dwelled in a year ago.
“Hopefully we’re not in that lane as this season develops this year. I know we’re not planning to be and we’re not building our program to be in that area.”
Their first big test comes out of the gate against a talented Buffalo Bills’ front, a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 55 yards rushing to the Steelers over the last two years.