Steelers attain elusive points per game goal — for half a season
It's been about 2½ years since the most prominent members of the Steelers' offense publicly called for making 30 points per game the team's goal.
And while the Steelers failed to achieve that in any of the three regular seasons they've played since, they managed the feat over the past half-season or so.
After not scoring 30 points once over the first nine games of the season, the Steelers averaged 31.3 points over the final seven.
Using the season's true midpoint (a definition buttressed even further by the bye week coming between the eighth and ninth games), the Steelers went from 20.1 in the first half to 29.9 in the second half.
But omitting the finale in which Pro Bowlers Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro sat out, the offense averaged 30.1 points over the second half of their season — a 10-point increase from the first half.
“It's the evolution of a group of guys,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “In this league, you have to be getting better every week. We were able to get some wins earlier maybe when we weren't at our best, but as the year rolled on and guys continued to work and practice and get comfortable, I think the execution got cleaner and cleaner.”
For the season, the Steelers averaged 25.4 points after posting 24.9 last season and 26.4 in 2015 following a training camp in which Roethlisberger and Haley stood by a goal of 30 per contest.
This season, the late improvement could have come from rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster emerging, late-camp pickup tight end pickup Vance McDonald getting comfortable or Martavis Bryant being active for all eight games (he was benched for Week 8).
Then again, the Steelers averaged 30 points in the second half without the services of team MVP Brown (calf contusion) for the final 2¾ games.
The Steelers' offense has averaged 19.3 points in six postseason games over the past three seasons. Jacksonville plays a divisional-round game at Heinz Field on Sunday.
“Now the real action starts,” Haley said. “We have a very good group we are going against and no different than any other of the 16 weeks. We have to get better this week.”