As I’ve stated all along, I’m not a football coach or a teacher, but I play one in blogs and podcasts. Each week of the 2018 exhibition and regular season, I’ve graded the efforts of the Black-and-gold via “the eye test”. Grading games is an extremely difficult and somewhat thankless task. While the coaches’ grades, of course, are what count the most, the media and fans can’t help but evaluate as well. So you, the reader, get to vote as well. You even get to grade the grader in the comments section.
So let’s take a look at BTSC’s perceptions of the season’s first quarter:
The Steelers’ offense is ranked tenth in the league with a 25.5-points per game (ppg) average through four contests. In 2017, they scored at a rate of 26.4 ppg. So far, Randy Fichtner’s crew has resembled both juggernaut and junk in the 2018 season. The same assessment could be made of one Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger. The league’s passing leader (1,414 yards) is averaging 353.5 yards per game. But BB has been inconsistent and, admittedly, not on the same page with everybody. His three picks were costly in the opener and a miserable second half in Baltimore helped thwart Pittsburgh’s chances. Ben’s offensive line hasn’t been reminiscent of the high-caliber unit of past years either. Injuries have hampered David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert, while a healthy Alejandro Villanueva’s play has been chicken-pox spotty. The line just doesn’t seem to be as strong as what we’ve witnessed in recent years.
Le’Veon Bell’s absence from the running game has hindered some aspects of the offense as well. While James Conner has played admirably with 232 yards on the ground, 164 yards as a receiver, plus a penchant for picking up the blitz, he doesn’t create concern nor command extra attention in the manner No. 26 did. Conner has done well, but there’s definitely a drop-off from Le’Veon.
Bell’s absence puts more attention on Antonio Brown too. Double-teaming AB has forced balls to go in other directions, mostly to JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu leads the team with 31 catches for 416 yards versus Antonio’s 29 for 272. A disconnect between Ben and AB is apparent as well. The team also might be missing Martavis Bryant. While he’s far from tearing it up in Oakland, the deep threat he provided hasn’t yet been replicated.
The TE duo of Jesse James (228 yards on 10 catches) and Vance McDonald (200 yards on 12 catches) has been very solid. As a duo, they’ve got a combined 22 grabs on 27 targets and their yards-after-catch have been remarkable — a combined 210. Jesse is ranked 29th in the league, while Vance registers at 25th.
Overall Offense Grade: C
Despite gaudy stats, less-than-desirable offensive efforts prevented the Steelers from winning in Week 1 and Week 4. A greater output will be needed this season to make up for the defensive foibles.
Offensive Valedictorian: JuJu Smith-Schuster
What overall grade do you give the Pittsburgh Steelers offense through the first quarter of the NFL season.
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