In the wake of the Steelers’ loss to the Patriots on Sunday there have been plenty of storylines already. Missed opportunities letting the game get away. The stronger than expected play of backup Quarterback Landry Jones. Team Captain Cam Heyward calls out the defense.
Lost in the shuffle is the fantastic game plan and play-calling from offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and Le’Veon Bell was the centerpiece of that game plan.
I’ll admit I was wrong last week when I said Todd Haley should go crazy with the gameplan because Bill Belichick was going to fill the box against Bell and force Jones to beat them. I wasn’t wrong about a stacked box, but I underestimated Bell’s ability to run against it.
While Le’Veon may not have had a fantastic day toting the rock (21 carries for 81 yards), he kept the offense on track and consistently picked up 3-4 yards to keep Landry Jones out of 3rd and long situations. In the passing game, the Patriots just had no answer for the young back; taking even just short checkdown passes for big gains (10 receptions for 68 yards).
I know the defense is taking a lot of heat for this game, but I thought they put up a decent fight considering they were just clearly overmatched. While the pass rush is still below average, I did think the Steelers did a decent job of making Brady uncomfortable and had to move off his spot consistently… I certainly thought they looked better against Brady and company than Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi the week before.
I believe that’s because they were fresh as a result of the offense controlling the clock and getting them some rest. In Miami the Steelers defense literally had guys puking on the field. The Dolphins held the ball 13 minutes longer than the Steelers in that game. This week? The Steelers held the ball 5 minutes longer than the Patriots. That’s a significant swing.
That doesn’t need to stop when Ben Roethlisberger returns.
The Steelers offense is explosive, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve seen in some games when Big Ben is clicking he can drop bombs on defenses and make it look so easy. Then you see games like the Eagles and Dolphins’ games were it looks like a different group of guys out there completely. This offense doesn’t travel well, but you know what does? Running the ball. Running the ball works on the road, and it works in bad weather, and it works in the playoffs.
The Steelers point outputs this season? 38, 24, 3, 43, 31, 15, 16. That’s some serious highs and lows.
Dallas runs the ball more than anyone, and starts an all-rookie backfield. Their point outputs: 19, 27, 31, 24, 28, 30.
Yes, they have a very good offensive line, but does anyone really think they have that much more talent on offense than the Steelers do? I don’t. With a rookie under center the Cowboys have been incredibly consistent from week to week. Dallas averages 26.5 points per game and the furthest they’ve been off that average is week 1 when they were under by 7.5 points. Pittsburgh averages 24.3 points per game, and they’ve been as bad as 21.3 points below their average (and that was WITH Ben).
Ben Roethlisberger is a great Quarterback, capable of winning games on his own… He’s also shown he can have off games where he kills you. If Ben was throwing the ball against stacked boxes though? Defenses don’t have a chance!
Todd Haley needs to stop letting defenses off the hook. Most of them would struggle to slow down and offense that just features Le’Veon Bell without the threat of a potent passing game. When they get into pass happy mode like they did against the Dolphins, they’re not even making a defense think about stopping the run.
I think that sometimes Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger may intend to run the ball but as things start to go badly they just panic and forget about it, and before you know it the game has gotten away from them.
An offense that features 20 carries for Le’Veon (with 5-10 receptions), maybe another 5-10 carries for DeAngelo Williams, and something like 25-30 pass attempts for Ben Roethlisberger would be perfect. In my perfect world it’s not like Ben suddenly becomes irrelevant either. Running Bell brings the safeties up and it gives the play-action game (which Ben has always been very efficient with) even more dangerous.
Hopefully Tomlin and Haley saw how running the ball just makes everything run smoother this week.