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Despite inaccuracies, the Steelers can still sling the rock deep

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have had their struggles last year with deep passes, but the team still had a good statistical season doing so.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and more importantly Ben Roethlisberger, have been known as a big play team. A team who is capable of burning you deep at a moment’s notice.

While receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown have been getting past defenders for the black-and-gold in the past decade, in 2017 the team lacked in this department — especially early in the season.

Fans were wondering if it was a timing issue, the receivers not doing what they were supposed to, or Roethlisberger just ‘losing it’ a bit as an aging quarterback. Whatever the true issues were for the team at the beginning of last season were, it seems, statistically speaking, they were rectified by year’s end.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) compiled deep receiving yards by a team, and the Steelers ranked second in this category. What are deep receiving yards? Receiving yards from throws which traveled 20-or-more yards past the line of scrimmage. And in this case, they were passes solely to wide receivers.

With 945-yards of deep receiving yards, the Steelers trailed only the Detroit Lions, and Matthew Stafford, in this category. Not too bad after a slow start, right?

So, what changed? First, Le’Veon Bell returned to form for the team, and the offense started to click around the second quarter mark of the regular season. Second, Roethlisberger started to settle in and get comfortable again. Lastly, for players like Martavis Bryant, who missed a season, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, it took time to get on track.

All of this resulted in the Steelers slowly finding their way as a big-play team once again. Will this success carry into 2018? With Roethlisberger back, along with his top trio of wide receivers, there is no reason to expect anything less.