Week 1 will bring surprises. But to be Professional Grade is to be consistent. @SBNation: Who will be consistent all season? #GMCPlaybook— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 4, 2014
We're glad you asked, Mr. Faulk. This is a fun question to answer.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got a tad warm down the stretch of the 2013 season. Over a run of eight games, of which the Steelers won six and just missed out on a playoff berth, Roethlisberger completed 63 percent of his passes (175-for-276) for 1,931 yards, 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He was sacked just seven times, and the Steelers' offense averaged around 26 points a game.
Let's stretch those same numbers over 16 games: 350-for-552, 3,862 yards, 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Even the Peyton-loving MVP voters would have to recognize Roethlisberger as a legitimate, most-valuable candidate.
But to Faulk's question, this is about consistency. Why can Roethlisberger duplicate that over 16 games? Around that same midpoint last season, the Steelers' offense had enough continuity and enough experience to employ more of its no-huddle attack. Don't listen to the lazy "Todd Haley restricted them" narrative. Changing offensive linemen in and out (two starters had been replaced by kickoff of the team's fifth game last year, three if you count Levi Brown, who was scheduled to start but was injured in warm-ups of that game) does not promote the idea of a unit working together fluidly enough to take plays on the fly.
The team also had a rookie running back who, despite the love (and hate) bestowed upon him, wasn't the same versatile player all year which he was during the team's final eight games. Le'Veon Bell improved quite a bit from his first start of the year in Week 4 to where he finished.
The Steelers return all five starting offensive linemen in the same positions they were in the previous year - the first time that's happened since 2005-06. They also bolstered their running game through the internal improvement of Bell, the addition of LeGarrette Blount and the playmaking ability of Dri Archer, along with one of the best receivers in the league, Antonio Brown. The Steelers have the most potent offense they've had in a decade and they've got a quarterback who's ready to have a career season.
He'll be consistently outstanding this year. The only question is whether the rest can keep up with him.
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