Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were vying for 16-0. Now they are mired in a losing streak.
Indeed, the Steelers lost their second straight game Sunday night, losing to the Bills, 26-15, in Buffalo. Pittsburgh, which lost to Washington in Week 13, has scored just 18 points in its last six quarters, as Ben Roethlisberger suddenly seems unable – or unwilling – to push the ball downfield.
Do the Steelers (11-2) think dinking-and-dunking is the only way they can win? Or is there a better way given their personnel?
“There’s got to be a better way than this,” Yahoo Sports NFL writer Frank Schwab said on The DA Show. “You have a Hall of Fame quarterback, and I don’t know if they’ve just thought, ‘His elbow’s not the same, we can’t do it,’ or, ‘We can’t get him hit,’ or, ‘Our offensive line can’t hold up.’ Whatever it is, literally their only offense is this one-step drop: just get the ball out. Look, that’s not a terrible philosophy, but you can’t have that as your only thing. You got to have something going on downfield. You have to have some kind of a running game. And right now, the Steelers, it seems like their only measure of success is, ‘How quick did Ben get rid of the ball?’ And that’s only going to take you so far.”
The Steelers, to be fair, weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut during their 11-0 start. They rank 16th in passing offense, 31st in rushing offense, and 11th in scoring offense (26.8 points per game).
Roethlisberger finished 21-of-37 for 187 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against Buffalo. The running game, meanwhile, was non-existent, as James Conner carried 10 times for just 18 yards.
“I’m just confused by it,” Schwab said. “This is a guy who, his entire career, he’s stood in the pocket, he’s thrown the ball downfield, he’s made plays – and now they’ve just kind of relegated him to a check-down guy, and I don’t get it. And it’s more than check downs; it’s a lot of receiver screens and all that stuff. But why wouldn’t you accentuate Ben instead of trying to hide him, it seems? Unless they just don’t think physically he can do it, I don’t know what they’re doing on offense.”
The Steelers play the Bengals (2-10-1) on Monday Night Football on Dec. 21. Kickoff is slated for 8:15 p.m. ET.