PITTSBURGH -- In watching the Pittsburgh Steelers offense lately, one is reminded of that Mike Lange saying: "Get in the fast lane, Grandma, the bingo game is about to begin.''
Going into their matchup against the Cleveland Browns (4-6) Sunday at 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, the Steelers (4-6) offense has been in the fast lane for them with a scoring average at slightly more than 30 points per game during the past three contests.
Sure, it's nothing like Peyton Manning and the high-flying Denver Broncos or even Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, who put up 55 on the Steelers a few weeks ago. But with 37 points in the comeback victory against the Detroit Lions last week, 23 the week before in a blowout against the Buffalo Bills and 31 in that loss to the Patriots, the Steelers scored more points in a three-game stretch than they have at any time since 2009.
The 91 points scored is the best three-game stretch, and the 37 points were clearly the most during offensive coordinator Todd Haley's 26-game tenure. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 367 yards passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions was his best performance in a win this season. Roethlisberger had 406 yards passing in a loss to Chicago, 383 in the loss to Minnesota in London at 400 at New England.
The difference could be that the Steelers went to the no-huddle offense a lot sooner against the Lions. Generally, it's a fourth-quarter, last-ditch effort to bring the Steelers back from a deficit. Clearly, with the way head coach Mike Tomlin spoke Tuesday during his weekly press conference, the Steelers aren't likely to utilize the no-huddle more than intermittently. In other words, don't expect the Steelers to become Denver-like anytime soon.
"I can see where you wouldn't want to do it all the time, I guess, but we really were able to get into a rhythm against the Lions,'' Steelers left offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "And their big guys up front on defense were getting tired. They had to be replaced, while we seemed to be energized.''
Last week's offensive explosion still didn't do much to improve the Steelers in the NFL rankings. With 343 yards per game, the Steelers are 15th in the NFL, but those numbers are built primarily by Roethlisberger's right arm. He has 2,901 yards passing this season, which are the most yards in franchise history through 10 games. However, while Roethlisberger is on his way to setting every Steelers passing record, the running game could do so as well.
But that wouldn't be a positive record. The Steelers are 30th in rushing with just 76.5 yards per game. The Steelers ran for a franchise-low 1,092 yards rushing in 1966. If the Steelers maintain their current pace, they would finish 21 yards worse than that mark through 14 games this season.
"We certainly haven't run the ball as well as we would like, but I think we've gotten some yardage on the ground when we needed it,'' Foster said. "And I count those screen passes as runs, so it hasn't been all bad, but it could be a lot better. And if we can stay healthy on the O-line, I think we'll get there.''
That might be true. It also wouldn't hurt the Steelers to improve their red-zone scoring. Only the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars rank lower than the Steelers in red-zone offense with one in four trips against the Lions. So, even though they put up 37 points, the Steelers could have been more efficient from close-range.
The NFL only counts touchdowns in red-zone scoring, as well it should, and the Steelers are at 42 percent. The NFL average is about 12 percent higher, so the club has some work to do in that area. But that's been a concern the past few years and certainly has been an area where there has been an emphasis for improvement this season.
"We've done a little better in the red zone,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If you ask me, we still have a long way to go in that area of our offense, but we've gotten better. We've scored a couple times when we've got down there. We just feel that we still left a lot out there, so we still have a long way to go.''
And with six games remaining this season, the Steelers certainly don't have much time to get going.
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- Ben Roethlisberger open to taking less to stay with the Steelers
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- Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene among 25 Hall of Fame semifinalists
- Jason Worilds coming off self-described 'best game' in win over Lions
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