The Pittsburgh Steelers as a franchise has never been a card carrying member of the "30 Club". No, this isn't an elite nightclub in downtown Pittsburgh, but simply having an offense which averages 30 or more points per game. A tall task for any offense, but are the Steelers capable of reaching such a summit in 2016?
This isn't the first time this challenge has been thrown out by offensive coordinator Todd Haley. In fact, Haley threw out the same gambit last season, but the offense fell short by averaging 26.4 points per game, and that was while missing Ben Roethlisberger in at least part of 7 games throughout the campaign. But it wasn't just Roethlisberger who was absent at times throughout the season. Maurkice Pouncey missed all of 2015, Le'Veon Bell missed half of the season and Martavis Bryant dealt with a suspension to start the season.
And they still averaged 26.4 points per game.
Bell and Pouncey are back, but Bryant will have to sit out the entire 2016 season due to failed/missed drug tests. Will this ultimately be the downfall of the Steelers joining the 29 other teams in NFL history who have all been granted access to the "30 Club"?
"He was a big weapon for us, obviously," Roethlisberger told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He is one of the best and had a chance to be one of the best in the NFL. He was growing and getting better. It hurts."
"This opens up a lot more opportunities, but it (stinks) that he is not out here," Markus Wheaton said of Bryant. "We wish Martavis was here. Only thing we can do is move on. We have a lot of hungry, willing and able guys."
So how will the Steelers adapt to life without Bryant, and his big-play ability. Well, free agency certainly helped in this facet of the offense.
Fan favorite, Heath Miller, was replaced by a young, tall and fast tight end in Ladarius Green, who should not only help the team's red-zone offense, but also their big play ability down the field. Bell and DeAngelo Williams will make a dynamic duo at running back for a second straight year, and Sammie Coates seems to be on the verge of showing just what kind of playmaker he can be on the outside.
Oh yeah, and they still have Antonio Brown.
You can talk about depth and positional changes all you want, but the main factor in this scenario is health. If Roethlisberger, Bell, Pouncey and Brown can all remain healthy, the sky is the limit for this offense. Lose one of those pieces for any extended period of time and now you are relying on questionable depth to help pick up the slack. As you saw in 2015, the "next man up" philosophy doesn't always get you into "Club 30".
Ultimately, the Steelers set such a goal for themselves to help them win games. After all, averages doesn't mean they have to put up 30 every game, but if the Steelers averaged 25 points per game, and won Super Bowl 51, I doubt there would be many lamenting the fact they wouldn't be the 30th team in NFL history to achieve such a task.
Nonetheless, Haley has challenged himself, and his players, to do something which has never been done in the Steel City before, and now it is up to the players to get the job done.