By Jeremy Hritz
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin always talks about splash plays, and I wonder if he was watching the divisional playoff games this past Saturday night.
Huge bombs for touchdowns, long special teams returns for scores, pick sixes, quarterback scrambles for TDs, strip sacks: there was definitely no mistaking the Broncos, Ravens, 49ers, or Packers as the Steelers.
Most interesting is that all four of those teams scored at least 31 points, a total that the Steelers only reached once in 2012 in a loss against the Oakland Raiders.
There is no question that if the Steelers are to get back into the playoffs and threaten for a championship again, they are going to have to start scoring points, or at least start scoring points when they need them. However, when examining the total points scored by the Steelers since Ben Roethlisberger took over the helm as the starter, it is curious to see that the Steelers have only averaged 22.6 points per game, hardly a formidable number.
|Points Scored by the Steelers Offense with Ben Roethlisberger at Quarterback|
|Average of 22.6 points per game|
The statistic to note from these numbers is that Steelers teams under Roethlisberger average only 22.6 points per game. When considering the type of ball-control offense that the Steelers run, the commitment to the running game, and the solid play of the Steelers defense, some of this statistic can be justified, yet as the offense becomes more pass-centric, the responsibility has to shouldered by Roethlisberger and his wide receivers.
As the Steelers move into the offseason almost certainly losing Mike Wallace and without a quality running back, the offense could be in some serious trouble in 2013. The wide receiver corps, which was touted too early as being one of the best in the league, minus Wallace, will feature Antonio Brown, who failed to live up to the expectation he set last season, and Emmanuel Sanders, who can make the big catch, but not without fumbling it away, especially in crucial situations. Without Wallace for defenses to focus on, teams will be able to commit to an already poor Steelers rushing attack, and the likelihood of scoring more than 22 points next season seems tenuous at best.
Outside of Roethlisberger, the Steelers do not have any players on offense that can take the game over and shift momentum, and heading into 2013, they cannot expect addition by subtraction by losing Wallace, or for a different result from run-of-the-mill running backs. Yeah, the offensive line was beat up again this year, but even with Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer behind a consistent offensive line does not strike fear into any opponent.
With salary cap issues and holes at outside and middle linebacker, addressing the lackluster offense will be difficult to do. However, if a viable threat on offense is not added, the Steelers may dip below 22 points per game, unless a youngster can step up and emerge, but we have all seen how that has worked out for the players that have been drafted over the last few years.
Will the Steelers stay conservative and count of the development of their own players, or will they try to solve the cap puzzle and make a move in free agency? History says yes to the conservative approach and no to being aggressive.
Just like their offensive philosophy.