If an offense can\’t move the ball on first down in a football game, it sets the stage for a long night offensively, and it puts more pressure on the quarterback to convert 3rd and long situations. That is exactly what happened to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night in their 31-19 loss to the Denver Broncos in the Sunday night opener.
While the game plan was to possess the football and keep it away from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, they were only able to do so thanks to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ability to convert several 3rd and longs, as the offense was atrocious on 1st downs during the game.
On the night, the Steelers offense finished with 13 first down rushing plays that produced 55 yards of offense (3.15 average yards per rush), and 13 passing plays that produced just 24 yards of offense (1.85 average yards per passing play). When you break down the first down plays by the half, the Steelers offense had all of 19 yards on 14 first half plays on first down.
The offensive line did not have a good night in the run blocking department and this is something that needs to be fixed immediately if offensive coordinator Todd Haley expects to run a ball control offense based primarily off of running the ball early. The ability to run the ball early in the game opens up the passing game and that did not happen last night in Denver. Instead, you had Roethlisberger having to extend plays once again and sometimes take extra hits as a result. This is no different from last year through one game and usually ends up with the quarterback being dinged up by the time the second half of the season rolls around.
Staying ahead of the chains is crucial for the offense and that certainly was not accomplished last night in Denver.