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The Steelers, and Ben Roethlisberger, left scratching their heads over their slow starts

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense hasn’t been able to do much of anything right to start games dating back to 2020.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is in a bad place right now, and many are wondering what is wrong with the overall unit. The answers to such a question are vast, but there is one area of the offense which is extremely troubling. That would be the offense’s inability to generate much of anything positive early in the game.

In case you didn’t know, the Steelers’ offense never seems to starts games quickly, sometimes waiting almost an entire quarter until they can put points on the board.

In fact, the last time the Steelers scored any offensive points in the first quarter of a game was in Week 10 of 2020 against the Cincinnati Bengals when the Steelers scored two field goals and a touchdown with a failed two-point conversion at the end of the first quarter. Since then, the Steelers haven’t been able to even muster a field goal in the first quarter, not just on the opening drive.

So, what’s the problem? Why can’t they Steelers’ offense do better in the first quarter?

“That’s the million-dollar question, right?” Ben Roethlisbeger said Wednesday to media. “Starting fast. I’ll just speak to me. I need to start faster. Traditionally, I’ve never really been a fast start guy. My college coach, Coach [Terry] Hoepp[ner] used to say the same thing. He’s like, “We’ve got to get you going faster in practices and games.” I’ll say, I need to start faster. I know the coaches are doing a great job of scripting things, whether it’s screens or getting the ball out, just plays that you really like. As an offense, we need to start faster, but it kind of starts with me. I need to get better with that because that’s kind of the key to a successful day: starting fast.”

Roethlisberger will almost always fall on the proverbial sword when talking about failures of the offense, but when asked to further explain why the offense has been absent for the first quarter, he simply couldn’t answer.

“I don’t know. I wish I knew.” Roethlisberger added. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had Coach tell me those things. I’ve just gotta be better. I don’t wanna say we need to start fast. We do, but it starts with the guy who has the ball in his hands.”

After the Steelers’ Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field, Mike Tomlin was asked about the Steelers’ inability to generate enough offensively to start games. He didn’t mince words.

“We’re not playing well enough.” Tomlin said. “We’re not making enough plays, some of those one-on-one type plays. And, obviously, the initial part of this game you saw the penalties. Every time we possessed the ball… You get a holding penalty, it’s a drive killer. The penalty aspect of play did not give us a chance to establish any rhythm, particularly at the early portions of the game. I think every possession we had in the first quarter or so was penalty-laden.”

Penalties certainly have been an issue for the Steelers’ offense, but the drought the offense is experiencing in the first quarter of games goes beyond one game where you got into penalty trouble. Part of the Steelers’ defense being able to dominate and do their thing is based on the offense holding up their end of the bargain. If the Steelers could give the defense a lead early in the game, it would allow the defense to further dictate what the offense will do.

Sadly, this hasn’t happened yet in 2021. Will the team break this trend vs. the Green Bay Packers in Week 4? If they hope to pull off the upset, they better hope for an offensive outburst, starting in the first quarter.


For more on the Steelers’ slow starts, and a preview of the upcoming game, check out Dave Schofield’s Stat Geek podcast below: