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?