Starkey: Steelers building an offensive monster
A few things stand out when you're staring at the 15 highest-scoring offenses of the Super Bowl era.
The first is that only one of them — the 1999 St. Louis Rams — won the Super Bowl, although seven got there.
The second is that Tom Brady was quarterback for four of those teams, while three others guided two apiece: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and, of course, Daryle Lamonica (aka “The Mad Bomber”).
The third is that the only three teams to average 35 points or more — the 2013 Denver Broncos, '11 Green Bay Packers and '07 New England Patriots — played within the past decade and in cold-weather venues.
This is relevant in early March why? Because I'm contemplating possibilities for the 2016 Steelers offense. That's why.
Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have built a monster. They're even buying toys they probably don't need. The Steelers stepped out of character on the first day of free agency and waved $20 million at a 6-foot-6 tight end who has run a 4.45 40.
That would be Ladarius Green. And for comparison sake, Martavis Bryant, who travels at just under the speed of light, ran a 4.42 at the NFL Combine.
So while Ben Roethlisberger surely will miss his Linus blanket (Heath Miller), one cannot help but wonder: What might he do with one of these sleek, new-age tight ends?
Green, 25, didn't put up eye-popping stats with the Chargers. He suffered a few concussions along the way. But it's hard not to notice he averaged 22.1 yards per catch in his second year and had 23 catches and four touchdowns in his first six games last year before an ankle injury and the return of Antonio Gates slowed him.
Did I mention he's 6-foot-6?
I'm with Pete Prisco of CBSsports.com , who wrote Green is a “rising player” and will “add a nice pass-catching dimension” to the offense.
Don't get me wrong. It's neither the addition of Green nor the re-signing of guard Ramon Foster that has me picturing the Steelers as a top-five offense of all time. Though each will help.
It's everything. And everyone.
It's a quarterback (Roethlisberger), a running back (Le'Veon Bell), a wide receiver (Antonio Brown), a guard (David DeCastro) and perhaps a center (Maurkice Pouncey) who belong on any short list of best-in-league at their positions (yes, I know, Pouncey's injured more than Beau Bennett).
It's the incredible depth at running back (DeAngelo Williams) and receiver (Brown, Bryant, Markus Wheaton and a possible breakout player in Sammie Coates).
It's even Jesse James.
There are questions, for sure. Can Pouncey regain his All-Pro form? Will Bell be the same player after two injuries to his right knee? Can Bryant take one more step toward stardom? Will Alejandro Villanueva continue to progress at left tackle, assuming Kelvin Beachum isn't signed?
The Steelers already are trending fast in the right direction. In 2014, they averaged a franchise-record 27.3 points per game. Last season, they finished fourth in the NFL at 26.4 ppg despite devastating injuries, including Roethlisberger missing a quarter of the season.
Think about that.
Now think about what this group would look like if they stay healthy.
I'm not sure I could identify a more physically imposing offense, ever. The quarterback is bigger than nearly every linebacker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bryant, Green, Coates and Bell are ridiculous specimens. Brown is a rare athlete.
The other side of the ball is another matter. If the Steelers don't fix their back end and see significant progress from their young outside linebackers, they could go down as one of the many high-scoring teams that didn't finish the job.
But I'm going to say right now this could be a top-10 offense of all time (cutoff: 32.9 ppg).
It should be top 10.
It could be top five.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.