By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-3 and are already two games behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the division. Forgive me, however, if I still do not find myself panicking.
Part of that is because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the major culprits in the Steelers finding themselves in the deepest hole they’ve dug in over a decade. Why is that a good thing? Well, quite simply, because we already know that he can play a whole lot better than he has.
Roethlisberger has already accounted for seven turnovers through the first three games, including four interceptions and three fumbles. Three of those turnovers were returned for touchdowns. Each of them came at critical times during their respective games. But there is no reason as of yet to take that as an emerging trend.
The biggest thing that could turn this season around is simply for the Steelers’ franchise quarterback to start playing more like a franchise quarterback. Other than the turnovers, he showed a lot of growth in that respect in the team’s last game against the Chicago Bears, where he had his first 400+ yard game since 2009.
Getting Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell back will also help Roethlisberger play better. Bell will upgrade the running attack, which will provide more versatility and unpredictability to the offense. He is also a capable receiving threat either out of the backfield or off the line of scrimmage.
Miller, of course, is an immense upgrade at the tight end position in comparison to David Johnson, David Paulson, and Michael Palmer. His mere return actually makes them look better, as he draws the attention away from them. Notice David Johnson getting open for two explosive plays this past Sunday? How likely was that to happen a week earlier, with Miller still on the sidelines?
Heath Miller has been Ben Roethlisberger’s security blanket for close to a decade now, and the connection between the two last season was at its all-time peak, with Miller catching eight touchdown passes, and even converting a two-point play.
In his first game back, he caught three passes as he felt his way back into action. He should only continue to improve on a weekly basis. Oh, and he can also block.
The fact that the offensive line is slowly starting to gel, and—more importantly—Roethlisberger is getting a better feel of playing behind this grouping of linemen, with Mike Adams to his left and Fernando Velasco snapping him the ball, will only further contribute to a more efficient offense.
I don’t know if the Steelers will be able to dig themselves all the way out of this 0-3 hole to make the playoffs. But I am not throwing my head in the sand either. I see plenty of reason for optimism, and it starts under center, where it should.