The Dallas Cowboys laid out an easy blueprint for the Steelers to follow straight to a playoff birth. It’s pretty simple really, it’s Bell, Bell, and more Le‘veon Bell. The rash of injuries and the suspension of Martavis Bryant has left Pittsburgh without a deep threat at wide receiver. Establishing the running game is now essential to the Steelers success on offense. Much like the Cowboys, the Steelers will force defenses to commit numbers to stop the run. In turn, the middle of the field should open up for players like Ladarius Green and Eli Rogers. We have seen proof of this in the last two games against the Colts and Browns. Le’Veon Bell has been well over 100 yards in each game, leading the team to easy victories in both.
This will be a big change for Ben Roethlisberger who has become accustomed to throwing the ball deep, particularly along the sidelines. Ben will have to operate in an area where he’s not really that comfortable, in mid to short range between the linebackers and safeties. He will also have to continue to settle for dump offs to Bell, as teams try to take away Antonio Brown with double coverage. Ben and the Steelers are going to have to get away from the deep shots on 3rd and short they like so much. They just don’t have the personnel to take advantage of that anymore. A more conservative approach is something both the Steelers offense and Steelers fans will have to get used to.
The final byproduct of a more run heavy offense is time of possession, especially as it pertains to the defense. In other words, keeping the defense off the field is never a bad thing. It keeps the young and injured Pittsburgh defense from being exposed. The other benefit is keeping this defense fresh. We saw in both the Miami and Dallas games the defense wear down in the 4th quarter. This becomes even more important with Cam Heyward out for the season. Making Le’veon Bell and the running game the focus of the Steelers offense helps them on both sides of the ball, and is the key for them going forward.