If you're a long-time writer who covers the Pittsburgh Steelers on a weekly basis, one of the things you're likely thinking about as you watch them take on an opponent is a particular post-game angle to examine and share your opinion on.
Such was the case for yours truly, as I watched Pittsburgh battle the Titans Thursday night at Heinz Field.
A topic that I seemed likely to cover between Thursday night and the Steelers’ next contest against the Packers on November 26, was the ongoing struggles of an offense that came into 2017 with a goal of scoring 30 points per week, but had yet to do so through what I figured would be 10 games.
I doubled down on this thought after I witnessed a Chris Boswell 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, which came on the heels of a Coty Sensabaugh interception that had set the offense up at the Titans’ 20-yard line.
This sequence of events was essentially a replay of what occurred in the first quarter, when Mike Hilton returned an interception to the Tennessee 24-yard line and Boswell paid off the takeaway by connecting on a 41-yard field goal.
And after Boswell ended the first half with his third field goal of the night to give Pittsburgh a 16-7 lead, I turned to my uncle and said, "Remember 2008, when the Steelers’ offense struggled week after week? Only instead of having a horrid offensive line, this offense has maybe the best one in football, and it still can't produce."
As it turned out, however, that Boswell field goal at the end of the first half was just the start of a scoring-spree in what would ultimately turn into a 40-17 beatdown before over 60,000 points-starved faithful.
After Tennessee stunned the home crowd by scoring on the opening play of the second half—a 75-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Rishard Matthews—the Steelers proceeded to reel off three-straight touchdown drives of 75, 75 and 51 yards, respectively.
All three of these touchdowns came courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger's right arm, and they were a nice complement to the one he threw to open the game.
That's right, Roethlisberger threw at least four touchdown passes in a game for the first time since he posted five against the Chiefs in Week 4 of the 2016 campaign--which just so happened to be the last time Pittsburgh played a prime-time game at Heinz Field.
This bodes well for the Steelers in the second half, since two of their remaining four home games will be in prime-time.
But the simple fact that Pittsburgh has four home games down the stretch should be great news, considering that between 2014-2016, Roethlisberger averaged close to 20 touchdowns a year at home vs. just under eight on the road.
As for his passer rating, Roethlisberger averaged a number of 111.3 at home the previous three years, as opposed to 85.1 away from Heinz Field. In-fact, Roethlisberger's performance away from home had gotten worse in recent years, falling from 91.0 in 2014, to 78.4 a year ago, with the 78.4 acting as a stark contrast to the 116.7 rating he posted at Heinz Field.
Through the first three home games of 2017, Roethlisberger hadn't exactly been lighting it up. But three home games isn't really a large enough sample size, compared to the league-leading six games he started on the road.
So why the very real "Home Ben" vs. "Road Ben" dynamic in recent years?
It's hard to say. Perhaps Roethlisberger simply performs better in the no-huddle, a formation that was utilized at a much higher frequency Thursday night than at any other time this season, and one that's perhaps a little too difficult for all involved in the process—including the quarterback, his offensive coordinator and the other 10 players—to make work in a hostile environment.
I do know we're all more comfortable in our own environments than we are in a foreign land. The food usually tastes better at home. Your bed is generally more comfortable.
Home, well, that really is where the heart is.
And the heart of the Steelers’ offensive struggles through the first nine games may have been the result of Ben Roethlisberger being a little homesick.
If I were you, I'd go ahead and hold my breath for the Steelers’ next 30-point performance, as it just might come at home against the Packers on November 26.