The game of football is a team sport, and growth can be difficult to gauge when you are talking about 11 players being on the field and having to work together. In other words, if rookie center Kendrick Green does his job on a specific play, but Trai Turner and/or Kevin Dotson alongside him blow their assignments, it can look as if Green was to blame.
Such is life in the game of football, but growth has always been expected with this young Steelers offense. When you consider the rookies starting and players still on their first contract in the NFL, there is a youth movement on the Steelers’ offense.
How do you measure growth, especially after the offense failed to produce just 200 yards of total offense in the win over the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field in Week 15? Ben Roethlisberger answered that question when he spoke with media Wednesday, and he said growth can be measured with one simple statistic.
Wins and losses.
“I don’t think you measure anything except for the win/loss.” Roethlisberger said. “I mean, you could sit there and say you did this, that, and the other. At the end of the day, yeah, you’d love to put up 9,000 yards of offense in a game, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t win the game. So, we’ve had unbelievable offensive games where we’ve lost and really bad offensive days where we won. At the end of the day, we’ll take the win and so that’s what you have to measure success on in my opinion.”
As a unit, the growth is measured by who ultimately wins or loses that particular game, but when it comes to specific players, or position groups, the growth can be more evident. Roethlisberger has seen that growth with his battery mate, rookie center Kendrick Green.
“You know, I think he [Green] took some heat in this building specifically after the Minnesota game for some of the snaps. And I walked in today and said, ‘Hey, good job. No bad snaps.’ Everyone wants to get on you when there’s bad snaps, but no one says good job when there’s no bad snap.” Roethlisberger replied. “I just wanted to reinforce to him that I think he’s doing a great job. His job is not easy. It’s not like he’s a player that’s played center his whole life and he’s just making those transitions. He’s a guy that’s got very few center snaps and we ask our center to make some calls, quite a bit of calls. Identification stuff, I’ll help him out with some things but for the most part, he’s doing most of it, and then you got to snap the ball and then block a guy in front of you. So, all those things considered, I think he’s done a great job.”
Another rookie who might not be available is tight end Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth has not been able to practice this week due to suffering a concussion vs. the Titans last Sunday. With Freiermuth possibly out of the game, the responsibility of replacing the rookie would fall on both Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader. Gentry has been available all season, while Rader is coming off a hip injury. Either way, Roethlisberger sees this tight end duo as more than capable to fill the shoes of Freiermuth.
“Zach’s been here with me for a little bit and is a guy that we trust and knows the offense. He might not be the most explosive guy but he’s a guy you can trust that’s going to make the plays. Last week he made a really big play for us.” Roethlisberger recalled. “If we don’t have Pat it won’t be great, but we have to have faith in Zach and Rader if he’s up to do what we need them to do.”
The Steelers will be tested in many ways in Kansas City this Sunday, and their overall growth and development on offense will be evident. Will it be good enough, or will the Steelers find themselves on the short end of the end result? Only time will tell, but Roethlisberger sees the offense, and specific players, evolving by the week.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Chiefs this Sunday in Week 16.