The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 offense is far from a finished product. Just look at their statistics through the first seven games of the regular season and it becomes crystal clear.
Total Yards/Gm: 330.4
Pass Yards/Gm: 244.4
Rush Yards/Gm: 86
You don’t need to see the league rankings to know the offense is not clicking on all cylinders, but you also can’t not watch the games and realize the offense is doing a lot better. In fact, some might suggest they are making great strides in the areas of running the ball and overall balance.
There is no one who sees this more than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and when he was asked what has been the biggest change in the offense it wasn’t anything big. Just cohesion.
“I think we’re understanding each other. We’re understanding the offense. We’ve talked about this in the weeks we’ve been up here. Having the same group of guys in front for a while now and knowing each other, they’re taking pride.” Roethlisberger said. “Watching that game again, they’re moving guys off the ball, and you look at Myles’ sack and the other one where he got pressure, it was strictly him getting a jump. He timed it perfectly. That’s a lot to ask any tackle to be able to stop a guy that’s that good. Going back and watching what they did, it’s amazing. I was proud of the way they’re playing.”
Of the players who might have made the biggest jump, and been the biggest surprise, has been rookie 4th round pick out of Texas A&M Dan Moore Jr. Roethlisberger lauded his play vs. the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, yet realizes just how good Moore can be.
“I would think it would continue to increase his confidence.” Roethlisberger said of Moore’s game vs. Myles Garrett. “I think he still takes pride in the sack and maybe thinking, “Oh, shoot, I wish I would have done this, ”or, “I wish I could have even been better.” I think that’s awesome to see a young guy who went against one of the best in the business to still be disappointed with the way he played.”
But Moore isn’t the only rookie who is contributing in a big way. His line mate, center Kendrick Green, has also started every game and is continuing to gel with his quarterback.
“When we were working on under center snaps in OTAs, my hand was kind of off to the side and we were having issues. I was like “All right, well, if you hit this spot every time, we’ll be good.” It wasn’t always pretty and we’re still working. Some of the shotgun snaps, you can see are a little high and whatnot. When he turns around, I just give him that little look like, “I gotcha.” We’ll be able to get through a bunch more, but he’s still learning, he’s still growing.” Roethlisberger said. “We still tell people, I’m not sure how many games he’s played at center in his life, but it’s not very many. I’m just proud of him. I told him that after the game that night. Sent him a text of just how proud I was of his play, and just to keep doing it.”
The improvement of the Steelers offensive line as a whole is essentially the definition of cohesion. It seems like a long time ago, but the Steelers’ starting offensive line played just a handful of snaps together in their four game preseason. And this isn’t a line like in years past with seasoned veterans from left to right.
“I think the fact they’ve done it in such a short time against some really good defenders.” Roethlisberger said about the young and inexperienced offensive line. “I don’t want to say there’s not a leader up there, but there’s not like your [Maurkice] Pouncey, your Ramon [Foster],your [David] DeCastro, Al[ejandro Villanueva], like the guys that have kind of been there, that staple. You look at where it is, it’s rookies, it’s new guys that have come in. Chuks [Chukwuma Okorafor] is the only guy, and Banner, that have been here. And Zach’s been hurt, this and that. So, for them to see their cohesion, to see the way they work together without that kind of one guy that’s like a “follow me” kind of guy, I just think that they’re having fun and they’re learning about each other at a really fast rate. And it’s shown itself and manifested on the field.”
It is clear to see how the Steelers’ offense will go as the offensive line goes. If they continue with this upward trajectory, the future is bright for the Steelers, Najee Harris and Ben Roethlisberger. However, struggle and you’ll see the complete opposite. Just look at the team’s three game losing streak as a sign of what could happen if the line goes south. In the meantime, let’s hope the steady progress continues.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Week 9 Monday Night Football game vs. the Chicago Bears.