The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners of their last two games prior to their Week 7 bye week, but it wasn’t winning games which was moving in the right direction, so was the team’s offense.
Over the course of their two-game winning streak, the Steelers offense has averaged 25 points per game, 133 yards rushing per game and 235 yards passing. Quite the difference when you compare those to the dismal statistics put up during the three-game losing streak which was the precursor to their current winning ways.
Nonetheless, after the bye week, players understand progress is being made, but the next step must be taken. The next step just happens to come against a really good Cleveland Browns defense. And no one knows this more than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who talked about the state of the offense during his Wednesday media availability.
“Well, we won the last two so that’s always important. I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit better each week, but each week also brings new opportunities and new challenges.” Roethlisberger said. “The challenge this week is a really good defense. You can look at the opposite side of the ball: how well they run the ball and this, that, and the other, but we’re going against a defense that’s really, really good. That’s going to bring a whole new challenge. It’s kind of one of those games that it doesn’t really matter, at the end of the day, what the stats are. We’ve just got to win the football game, really.”
Roethlisberger talked about the progress of the offense, but how this next game, against a good team, divisional foe and in a hostile environment, will be the next checkpoint for the unit.
“They should understand what’s coming. I understand what’s coming. It’s a good challenge for them and they should be excited for it.” Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers’ offensive line might also have a different look to it when they take the field Sunday vs. their AFC North rivals. That would be based off the potential addition of Zach Banner to the starting offensive line.
To be clear, there has been nothing official made about the team’s plans for Banner to start, but Roethlisberger knows what Banner brings to the team. On top of physical skill, Banner’s heart and leadership is something the offensive line could utilize moving forward.
“Zach’s one of the leaders of that group. He’s a guy who’s got experience. He brings passion and fire.” Roethlisberger said about his teammate. “For a lineman, sometimes the heart that you bring can be stronger than your talent. With a guy that’s got all kinds of heart and passion and fire for this team and or protecting the quarterback, it’s never a bad thing to have.”
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Banner’s potential return. The uncertainty resides in the fact fans have not seen Banner play a full game as a starting right tackle. Fans have seen plenty of him as a “tackle eligible” player under Randy Fichtner, but last year’s season didn’t even last four quarters for the former USC Trojan. Banner has a lot to prove, and in Week 8 he might get the first shot at doing just that.
The Steelers’ offense, and quite possibly the team, will go as the offensive line goes. During the last two games the Steelers offense has been balanced and efficient. If the team fails to run the ball it can absolutely cripple any momentum the team has gained the past three weeks. If Banner provides a spark in a positive way, it would be well worth it for the Steelers to insert him into the lineup.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Browns in Week 8 of the regular season.