Five games into the 2017 season and one thing is alarmingly clear. This offense is nowhere near what was expected of it when the year began. Now after what very well maybe the worst offensive performance in the Ben Roethlisberger era versus the Jaguars, we are left to ask who’s to blame for this mess?
Todd Haley has come under fire after what seemed like a completely flawed approach to beating Jacksonville. They came into the game with the worst one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL, and conversely one of the best pass defenses. Just one week earlier, the Jets had shredded the Jags for 256 yards on the ground. So it appeared simple really, attack them with the games premier running back and walk away with an easy victory at home right? Well actually no, the Steelers were determined to throw the ball early and often. To make matters worse, they seemed to be going out of their way to target Jalen Ramsey. Yes that Jalen Ramsey who is the best young corner in football. The result was not surprising as Bell finished with 15 carries, Roethlisberger had 5 picks including an astonishing two for touchdowns, and the rout was on.
Ok that may have been on Haley and the game plan, but Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t without blame in this one. His insistence in staring down Antonio Brown and forcing the ball to him in coverage was bad on Sunday, but it’s been a season long problem. So has his lack of accuracy in his mid to deep throws. The Steelers have been unable to capitalize on the big plays that have been there for them in just about every game. Ben now has two plays in his arsenal, force it to AB or check down to Le’veon Bell. That’s the only things he has been able to do consistently all season. To make matters worse, Ben is now questioning himself. He was quoted as saying “I may not have it anymore” after Sunday’s game. That’s not something you want to hear from your team leader.
So rather than focusing on who’s to blame, the question should be how to move forward from here. This offense is far too talented to continue to play like this. Todd Haley is going to have to alter the attack to a heavy run/short passing game going forward. At least until Big Ben has regained his confidence. They can follow the mold used by the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning’s final season. It’s a strategy of relying on the defense, while utilizing a run heavy offense and the occasional big play in the passing game. It’s not the offense originally advertised, but it just may be god enough to get the Steelers where they need to go.