All the pieces are there. Talent everywhere you look. The 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers offense has a chance to do something really special. When the 2015 season came to an end, there was a lot of talk about a 30 point per game season the following year. Injuries and suspensions scrapped any hope of that before the first game had even been played. Flash forward to the present, and we are back dreaming of an absolutely loaded offense that SHOULD put up numbers on par with some of the best of all time.
- Offensive Line: This group was among the best lines in the NFL last season. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked only 17 times last season, barely over a one per game average. That was a career low for the Steelers quarterback. This line has two Pro-Bowlers in David Decastro and Maurkice Pouncy, and a good argument would’ve been made for right tackle Marcus Gilbert to be on that list as well. The massive improvement from game one to the end of the season by left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was the key to taking this group to a top 3 offensive line last year. Villanueva’s growth was so impressive, it led to some trade interest from other clubs around the league. Pittsburgh rebuffed those offers, and rumors have them looking to sign Ali to a long-term deal. There is even depth here with players like B. J. Finney and Chris Hubbard who played well when called upon in 2016. Throw in 2016 draft pick Jerald Hawkins, who missed the entire campaign due to injury and this is an absolutely stacked group.
- Running Back: What more can we say about superstar Le’veon Bell then hasn’t already been said? He basically carried the offense for most of the season when the rash of injuries hit the wide receiver position. A reduced work load will do wonders to keep him upright for an entire season. That’s where third round pick James Conner comes in. Hopefully Conner can show enough during the pre-season to make the coaches want use him to spell Bell from time to time. Free agent Knile Davis could be a nice change of pace back, but he’s more likely to just be a kick/punt return specialist.
- Wide Receiver: My goodness where do we begin with this position? They could be the most talented set of receivers in the league, or another disaster depending on health and off field issues. It begins and ends with Martavis Bryant in my opinion. When he is on the field, this team is on another level……period. No other player brings the dynamic set of skills that Bryant does. He claims to be clean now, and by all the things we have seen on social media he appears to be in terrific shape. Antonio Brown had a great season without Bryant being there to draw away all the double teams he had to face. Imagine now a season where teams are forced to cover him one on one? It’s a scenario that is keeping many defensive coordinators up at night. Throw in a healthy Sammie Coates, a more experienced Eli Rogers, and second round pick JuJu Smith Schuster and it’s almost not fair to have so much talent at one position. That’s without even factoring in free agent burner Justin Hunter and veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey. If this group stays healthy and focused, this could be an all time great pack of receivers.
- Tight End: It was a very good sign when the Steelers did not draft or acquire a free agent tight end this offseason. That means they have some level of comfort with the progress of Ladarius Green. Green still must be considered a wild card at this point having been injured so often over the last few years. If he can manage to stay healthy though, what a weapon he becomes. Operating in the middle of the field, particularly down the seam gives the Steelers something they sorely need. Green can force opposing safeties to cover the middle, opening up the deep side lines for players like Brown, Bryant, and Coates. Jesse James is underrated in my opinion, and gives Pittsburgh a legitimate replacement should Green go down at any point.
- Quarterback: Ok I’ve saved the best and most important for last here. Ben Roethlisberger is a top five quarterback in this league without question. He did slip slightly last season though and there are reasons for concern. His struggles at times can be easily contributed to all the missing pieces of the offense last year. Roethlisberger often looked frustrated at his inexperienced receivers. The fact though that he has openly talked about retirement can not be ignored. Hopefully a full season with all these weapons will reinvigorate Big Ben‘s interest in playing far past this next season. As far as the backup situation, well it’s not much different then most in the NFL. If Ben goes down for a long period of time, so do the Steeler’s Super Bowl chances. Landry Jones isn’t as bad as most Steeler fans perceive him to be. As a short stop-gap, Jones can do the job and even win a game or two. If it’s more of a long-term situation, like most teams in football the season is compromised at best.
Optimistically you can look at this offense and say this has all the makings of an all time great unit. The only obstacle would appear to be keeping these players on the field all year. Short of that, there can really be no reason why this team shouldn’t post the 30 point per game averaged that was promised one year ago. 2017 has all the promise of lots of yards, lots of scoring, and even a return to the Super Bowl as a result of this potentially supercharged offense.