Sunday’s game against the Ravens on Sunday made one thing very clear. The best path to success for the Steelers is to ride Le’veon Bell and their talented offensive line. The Steelers wide receivers are much improved over last season. With Martavis Bryant back, and the emerging JuJu Smith Schuster to go along with super star Antonio Brown the team has a formidable group for any team to contend with. The problem isn’t in that area. The problem may be in a declining Ben Roethlisberger.
The signs started showing last season. Most chalked it up to all the injuries and suspensions that ravaged the club’s wide outs. Ben struggled with his accuracy from the second half of the season on. He consistently missed on deep balls, as well as failing to hit his receivers in stride. What followed was an heavy reliance on the run game and Le’veon Bell to pull out victories. Once the team settled on that strategy, they began to pile up victories on their way to an AFC Championship game run.
Fast forward to this season, and the same problems are plaguing the Steelers franchise quarterback. Maybe its early season rust. Ben hasn’t had much time to get reacquainted with Martavis Bryant. On the other hand, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end for the franchise’s best ever quarterback. Entering his 14th season, Ben is certainly on the downside of his career. Partly due to his style, and partly due to some suspect offensive lines over the years, Big Ben has taken a beating over the years. This is not to say that Roethlisberger isn’t still a better than average quarterback. In fact, he is still quite capable of helping this team to win another Super Bowl. Just as long as he has Le’veon Bell doing the heavy lifting for this offense.
The blueprint was designed during last season. A heavy dose of Le’veon Bell, with a sprinkling in of the passing game equalled big success for this football team. Pittsburgh was allowed to control clock, and thus keep their suspect defense from being exposed. This season the defense is improved, and so are the receivers. The strategy however, should remain the same. This time they are not so much limiting the defense’s exposure, it’s limiting Ben Roethlisberger’s. Staying out of third and longs, and making opposing defenses load the box to stop the run will all help improve the quarterback play. All while helping the defense by eating up time of possession as well.
It’s not what Steelers fans had in mind. We are never going to see the high-flying thirty point per game offense that was promised. In the end though a conservative, run heavy offense is exactly what will keep this team winning. Ben will have his moments with some big plays down the field, maybe even have a 300 yard passing game or two. Clearly though, the most important player on this team going forward is Le’veon Bell, not Ben Roethlisberger.