Steelers Showing Variety In Offensive Identity

The Pittsburgh Steelers have taken very different approaches in the first two preseason games when it comes to game planning on the offensive side of the ball, particularly with the first-team unit under Ben Roethlisberger.

Of course, Roethlisberger only played one series in the first preseason game, but it was clear that the plan heading into the game was to establish the running game, with Le’Veon Bell carrying well early in the drive and LeGarrette Blount contributing with a pair of carries as they approached the end zone.

Those plays bookmarked a short pass to Dri Archer that he turned into a long gain. Roethlisberger’s only other pass was an incompletion to Lance Moore in the end zone when the slot receiver failed to gain separation.

Compare that strategy to the one the Steelers used with Roethlisberger and the first-team offense in the second preseason game.

The obvious plan the second time around was to work on the no huddle, which is what the first-team offense ran seemingly exclusively in its three drives.

The results were positive, with Roethlisberger throwing touchdowns on the first two possessions and driving to midfield on the third before bailing out on a potential fourth and one opportunity that many believe they should have attempted.

The first drive didn’t last long at all, as Antonio Brown took advantage of a rub route to gain open space and took a long gain all the way into the end zone. The second drive came on a short field following a Ryan Shazier interception and ended with a red zone touchdown to Markus Wheaton on third and 11.

The running game was not as successful as it was in the first preseason game, but the Steelers had a tough go of it against this Buffalo Bills defensive front last season as well. They are admittedly among the best in the league.

A week after showing well as a run blocker, Kelvin Beachum in particular struggled in that area on Saturday, though certain circumstances were out of his control. The third preseason game will hopefully be a more indicative performance.

As a team, the Steelers averaged less than two yards per carry, though Bell at least had his moments early in the game.

What I do like is that the team is exploring its options in building an offensive identity. The Steelers showed last week that they could run block effectively, and this week, they ran the no huddle and kept their quarterback’s jersey clean.

The issue now is how to blend these disparate offensive philosophies into some cohesive overall vision, with a mind toward being versatile depending on the opponent. We’ve seen the run-heavy look, followed by the pass-heavy offense. Will the end result bring more balance?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Shawn S.

    What a great problem to have. Run heavy, pass heavy, or both?…

  • ApexSteel

    To me it seems like they used these first two games to focus

    on different things. First game they really focused on the running game and the passing game wasn’t as strong (except for that Dri catch and run. Golden Flashes all day). Last game it seemed like they went heavy on the passes. Maybe I’m just making excuses, but it seems like that’s why they’re identity isn’t as apparent. Look for a complete offensive game on Thursday.

  • steeltown

    I agree. They will fuse the two together in the first half Thursday night. One thing that I hope to see is Gradkowski playing the entire 2nd half, he needs the reps. Let L.Jones and Kay split/play the 4th preseason game.

  • Ray

    Good points, and I think this variety has been seen on a play by play basis, too: the Steelers seem to have shown a great number of offensive sets this preseason, with five wide, two backs, a lot of motion, etc. If I recall correctly, Blount even lined up in the slot on Sunday! All these looks mean a greater use of secondary weapons such as Archer, Moore, and Bryant as he develops, and opens up more opportunities for studs such as Brown (as we say on his ~75 yard catch and run).

  • IndianaSteelerfan

    Every defense is different having certain strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully the Steelers can run against some teams and those teams that are strong against the run then they can go to their passing game. Having proficiency in both the passing and running games the Steelers can use what works best in every game situation.

  • Joel Nye

    Bring more balance as in start most games with the no huddle, get a 2 to 3 score lead, then balance it out with a pounding rushing attack. It gets Ben and the offense on a roll and then sets up the run game to wear down a tired defense.

  • RW

    I’d like to see Kay play. Can he really be any worse than Landry Jones?

  • Asmitty56

    I can’t begin to imagine the possibilities if the Steelers grab a TE early next year that they can put in-line or split out. Archer was certainly missing the outside blocking, and I’m sure having a TE split out wide would free up Brown and Wheaton on rub routes, and lead blocking on screens.

  • CrazyTerry

    You don’t want to overdo no huddle because a good DC in the second half of the season will pick apart tendencies and have a defensive player sit in an opportunistic space to get an INT. now if Ben can actually pull it off to a great percentage of the snaps for the entire year, more power to him. I really think the steelers need to extend him instead of these other chumps they keep wasting cap space on.