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Steelers News: Is it play calling or execution which truly ignites the Steelers offense?

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The Steelers’ offense stumbled into Week 11, then exploded. What is the true reason for the success or failure of the offense?

Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

If an NFL offense like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fails to perform, is the play-calling or execution to blame?

Count all of these as very philosophical questions which can be debated and will be debated without any definite answer emerging.

Steelers fans love to bash Todd Haley, but if every offensive play is designed to succeed, at what point do you blame execution? And on the flip side, there are moments in the football game where you can see that the play being called not only doesn’t fit into the scheme, but is setting players up to fail.

The blame game can go on-and-on, but whom do you credit for an offense’s success, or blame for the lack thereof?

Time to check up on the Steelers news outside the walls of BTSC:

There seems to be a lot of chest pounding and self congratulating going on after the Steelers offense scored 40 points Thursday night in a win over Tennessee. The Steelers “silenced their critics” seems to be the story line. They proved everyone wrong; they sure showed everyone who they really are.

Let’s relax. It’s one game. That’s it. It is one game against a very mediocre defense and with the aid of an opposing quarterback who threw four interceptions. That’s not to diminish what the Steelers offense accomplished, it is to ask the very fair question of “What took you guys so long?”

We’ve known the Steelers offense has had this capability. We’ve known they have the best complete set of skill position players in the NFL. We’ve known Ben Roethlisberger has the ability to play at a higher level than just about every quarterback in the NFL not named Tom Brady.

The problem is until Thursday night, it was all just hot air and big talk. The Steelers offense didn’t do anything Thursday night other than underscore just how much they have underachieved to this point in the season.

Ten games in a row now, the Steelers’ defense has held an NFL offense to less than 19 points in regulation.

Crazy, right?

Well, it’s the truth, and it’s only looking more and more rooted in a firm Keith Butler-built foundation, especially after that 40-17 rout of the Titans on Thursday night at Heinz Field.

Start, as always, with the run.

Just like Dick LeBeau‘s defenses, the first priority in a Butler defense is to make the opponent one-dimensional by taking away old reliable. The Steelers did just that when they limited Tennessee to just 52 yards on the ground after they had averaged 117.5 beforehand. And they did so in the trenches. The Titans featured two power backs in starter DeMarco Murray and backup Derrick Henry, but the focus wasn’t on watching how they run the ball but, rather, how and where the Titans’ offensive line would try to open rushing lanes. The Steelers displayed a steady feel for the Titans’ running game and, as a result, sound gap defense.

And don’t look now, but, despite giving up 200-plus yards twice this season, against the Bears and Jaguars, the Steelers now rank eighth in the league in run defense, allowing 97.6 yards per game.

In the aftermath of the Steelers’ 40-17 rout of the Titans on Thursday night, their precocious rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster, was interviewed by NBC’s postgame crew and asked about working every day with Antonio Brown.

“Man, he’s the G.O.A.T.,” Smith-Schuster said.

Smith-Schuster is still just 20. His knowledge of the history of the NFL and who is the Greatest of All Time might be a bit limited. But he might have a point about Brown, who had 10 receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee.

The Titans tried to match up man-to-man against Brown, most of the time with rookie Adoree’ Jackson. That’s a mismatch no matter how you look at it, and I asked Brown if he felt disrespected when he saw that.

But back to Smith-Schuster’s point about Brown being the greatest.

Jerry Rice is the standard for NFL receivers. He played 16 seasons in the league, catching 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and an astounding 197 touchdowns. Those are astronomical numbers. In terms of catches, yards and touchdowns, he’s the guy against which any receiver will be judged.