While there is certainly much that can be said in the way of criticizing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense and the play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, one thing that can’t be said is that, on the average play, they make it easy for you to get your pass rush in the backfield.
That has been a point of emphasis this week for Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in addressing his defense. Put simply, over his past three or four seasons, nobody has gotten the ball out of his hands quicker than has Roethlisberger. That has some downsides for the offense, but it really limits what you can do as a pass rush when the ball is gone in 2.3 seconds or quicker.
“The emphasis of the ball coming out fast is really evident, the ball really gets out. Nobody gets the ball out faster”, Carroll told reporters last week. “That means that you can’t fool him. When stuff is happening, you are pressuring him, and coming at him, he knows everything that is going on and he just does not let you get to him”.
Coincidentally enough—or rather, not—a lot of the pressure that has been created this year, particularly on sacks, has been on the plays that Roethlisberger deviates from his new norm and regresses to his old norm: Holding onto the ball way too long. Only now those plays turn into very avoidable sacks rather than 45-yard bombs.
Really, this offense still has a lot of untapped potential. If they can actually capitalize on their quick passing game and establish more of a rhythm offense, they could move the ball much more effectively. But they’ll never turn over to that fully, as Roethlisberger likes the deep ball too much, even if he’s forsaken the intermediate and anything over the middle.
“Their offense is really designed to use his decision making to spread the ball around the field, mix their runs and passes and the stuff that goes along with it”, Carroll said. “It includes a lot of quick perimeter stuff so he’s really good at doing that and he can strike you dead. He’s still throwing deep balls right on the money. He has a nice crew with him, with Najee (Harris) in there to hammer the football. It makes for a nice mix on their offense now”.
At least, it was a nice mix last week, for the first time all season, and in about a year’s time. The question is really, was last week’s game an example of the offense finding itself, or was that them playing above their abilities, with a regression to the norm impending?