The 2014 season brought highs and lows, and it pointed the arrow up for the Steelers in the future. We're giving out our season grades for the Steelers in two parts. This is on the offense, with the defense and coaching staff to follow.
It's hard to really go through the season performance of Ben Roethlisberger snap for snap and not come away with the feeling Roethlisberger is coming off his finest season. He broke multiple team records, he gutted out tough games, and while he was not flawless in 17 games, he played very well in the vast majority of them. He shouldered much of the blame after a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs after completing 31 of 48 passes in a game without even the semblance of rushing ability. If anyone gets an "A" for the 2014 season, it's Roethlisberger.
The only minus here is because of the amount of production having to be shouldered by Antonio Brown - a legitimate first team All Pro player, and a worthy candidate for Offensive Player of the Year (an award he won't win but should garner some attention for it). Markus Wheaton had something of a mini slump in the middle portion of the season, and Lance Moore didn't get the ball as much as was thought at the beginning of the year. An excellent group all-around, but the quarterback, in this case, deserve a tinch more credit.
This is a hard one to call. Le'Veon Bell, the team's workhorse back, was sensational for the majority of the season. That blinds a few spotty games, including the final three of the season when the Steelers' offense was led almost entirely by the passing game. We'll never know what could have been against Baltimore had Bell been healthy, and he's a huge part of the 2014 season's success. But a lack of depth at the position has to factor in here as well. Bell couldn't be everything in the end and the Steelers paid for it - a mistake they're sure not to repeat heading into the draft.
This was a solid, not tremendous group. All members of it, including the running backs and tight ends, played well at times this year, and all appeared to have down games. Two of their six losses this season, both against Baltimore, can be directly attributed to a lack of pass protection. Monster wins like Week 8 vs. Indianapolis, as well as holding J.J. Watt - the man who should be named MVP of 2014 if we weren't so gushingly in love with quarterbacks - to one of his lower production games of the season.
This was the peak-and-valley unit of the Steelers this year. The run blocking in the last four games of the season, including the playoffs, was not on par with some of the performances it had throughout the year. That lack of consistency limited the Steelers' offense at times, but we saw what it was capable of in dominating finishes in wins over Tennessee in Week 11 and Cincinnati in Week 14. It didn't do anything against a weak Saints run defense, and struggled to do anything against Atlanta in Week 15. Games like that should have been winning efforts, statistically.