Harris: Steelers offense must excel in 2013
By John Harris
Published: Monday, December 31, 2012, 10:36 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the Steelers' defense created seven to 10 more turnovers for their offense this year.
Why do we automatically assume things would be any different?
That players and coaches would be preparing for a playoff game instead of saying their goodbyes and preparing for the offseason?
After all, we're talking about a Steelers attack that finished No. 14 in passing offense, No. 20 in total offense and No. 22 in scoring offense under franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Isn't it enough that the Steelers' defense led the NFL in pass defense and total defense for the second consecutive season? Or that the defense also finished No. 2 in run defense and No. 7 in scoring defense in 2012?
I find it ironic that both of the Steelers voted to the Pro Bowl this year play offense and that none of their defensive teammates was invited to Hawaii. How is that possible?
How about the offensive players doing their jobs better and scoring more points instead of the defense always being expected to bail out the offense?
To get to the bottom of why the Steelers didn't qualify for the playoffs for the second time since 2009, it's important to dig deeper in search of the truth.
Did you know that the Steelers have never led the league in passing offense or total offense — or even finished among the top five — in any of Roethlisberger's nine seasons? Or that the Steelers defense didn't rank lower than No. 4 in total defense in any of their three most recent Super Bowl seasons (2005, 2008 and 2010)?
Even if you toss out this year's inconsistent offensive performance due to Roethlisberger's rib and shoulder injuries, Big Ben's body of work reveals similar inconsistencies.
In the three seasons that Roethlisberger led his team to the Super Bowl, the Steelers never finished higher than No. 14 in passing offense or total offense. In a league consisting of 32 teams, that's barely above average.
With all the talk about Roethlisberger's alleged rift with first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the offense's numbers in his one season under Haley aren't that different from its average rankings in five seasons with Bruce Arians (14.4 passing defense, 14.4 total defense) and three seasons with Ken Whisenhunt (20.3 passing defense, 12.7 total defense).
Since 2004, the Steelers enjoyed their two highest rankings in net passing yards under Arians and Whisenhunt (2006 and '09). They didn't qualify for the playoffs in either season.
A year ago, the Steelers earned a playoff berth when the offense finished No. 10 in passing offense and No. 12 in total offense.
Forget the defense not generating enough turnovers for the offense in 2012. The unit deserves much better than that.
Roethlisberger has played on five teams that led the league in total defense. Imagine how many Super Bowls Tom Brady could win if he played with a dominant defense.
It's probably asking too much to expect the Steelers to lead the league in total defense in 2013 for a third consecutive season.
However, it isn't asking too much to expect the offense to play better.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Disagree. Haley's scheme is a bad fit for the offensive weapons we have. I contend without anyone calling plays and Ben running the offense we' be in the play-offs. Haleys dream drive is 30 plays of 3 yards. Leaves way too many opportunities for bad things to happen. I woul love to hsee Haley hired away for another (doomed) head coaching position and Whisenhut return. And to your main point Mr. Harris, the take-aways dont only mean more opportunties for our offense, but fewer for the opponents. I expect to see major changes on both sides of the ball for 2013. But Ben is certainly not the weak link on this team. Offensive line is the place for the most room for imporvement. That would help the run and pass game tremendously if they could get healthy and gel as a unit. When Whiz comes back, could bring Grimm along with him . .
Submitted by: Ron on Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Devon made a good observation. The offense has been dysfunctional and I think in some respects Ben has become more of a liability than an asset. Go back to his poor play in SB 40. We won in spite of, not because of him. Then note his wreckless bahavior with the motorcycle accident, the sexual harrassment issues, on-field issues where his style of play has resulted in numerous injuries including concussions. I hope I'm wrong but I'm afraid we've seen the last Super Bowl from Ben - and maybe the last serious playoff run. His injuries may be getting the better of him. Time to start looking for a suitable replacemnent.
Submitted by: devon on Tuesday, January 1, 2013
great article john! You can bring the best offensive coordinator to Pittsburgh to coach the Steelers offense and this unit will struggle to score points. The problem with this offense(except Heath Miller) is there are too many dumb football players playing on it , starting with the qb. Ben still hasn't learned to throw the ball away when they are in fg position instead he takes a sack. The young money crew are very overrated and again not smart. Willie colon- a penalty machine. The steelers need to start drafting smarter players to play at the skill positions on offense, that is the glaring weakness of this offense. A big fast smart wr and another big fast smart tight end to compliment Heath Miller in the upcoming draft will greatly improve this offense not a change at offensive coordinator.