Steelers working to figure out offense
By Alan Robinson
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 1:00 p.m.
What Mike Tomlin saw was readily apparent to anyone inside the Steelers' locker room following a loss that was a mirror image of their season-opening game.
“Ben is angry,” said Tomlin, who, like his quarterback, is 0-2 for the first time in his Steelers career.
Ben Roethlisberger also is sore, frustrated and quickly losing patience with the out-of-character start of a team that can't run the ball and can't possess it long enough to do much damage offensively.
Roethlisberger, the Steelers' lone offensive captain with Maurkice Pouncey injured and out, plans to meet Wednesday with the other veteran players to try to figure out what's wrong — and how to fix it. After losing to Tennessee 16-9 and Cincinnati 20-10, the Steelers are off to their worst start since they were outscored 60-31 in losing to the Patriots and Raiders in 2002.
“We're going to sit down and talk and figure out a way to right the ship, and make sure these young guys know that this is unacceptable,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday, less than 12 hours following a 20-10 loss to the Bengals.
One idea, Roethlisberger said on his 93.7 radio show, is “bringing in the Lombardi (trophies) and setting them in the team meeting room and putting up the Hall of Fame pictures and that stuff.”
The Steelers would be better off putting up some points.
They're off to only their fourth 0-2 start in the past 25 seasons, and it's mostly because their offense is off in almost every area.
They've rushed for only 75 yards, the fewest they've ever had after two games, and only six times previously since 1940 have they scored fewer than 19 points during that time. They've been outgained 636-472 and outrushed 239-75.
Tomlin said, “We're not going to push the panic button” — but he also hinted there could be changes before the Steelers play the Chicago Bears (2-0) Sunday night at Heinz Field.
While the Steelers recovered to have a winning season each of the last four times they were 0-2, they didn't reach the postseason any of the 12 times they opened 0-3. And only once, in 2000, did they have a winning season.
“We've got to get better in a hurry,” Tomlin said.
Some possible changes:
• Starting Felix Jones at running back rather than Isaac Redman, who has only 13 yards on 11 carries.
“I was encouraged by some of the things Felix did — specifically, knowing when to bounce the ball to the perimeter, knowing when to stick his foot in the ground and when to challenge people,” Tomlin said of Jones, who had 37 yards in Cincinnati.
• Speeding up the slow-moving offense that ran only 58 plays against the Bengals by employing more of the no-huddle. Both Steelers touchdowns this season came with Roethlisberger calling the plays in a hurry-up offense.
“Obviously, when you pick the pace of the offense up, it limits what defenses can do from a personnel standpoint, maybe even from a menu standpoint,” Tomlin said. “But those things are short-lived.”
• Playing outside linebacker Jarvis Jones full time. Jones took 60 snaps Monday to Jason Worilds' 27, a week after Worilds had 46 snaps to Jones' 30.
• Getting rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton on the field more. He played only five snaps Monday, and was on the bench when the slower Jerricho Cotchery ran an end-around.
“He hasn't been a target a lot,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully, that will increase as we move forward.”
• Using Kelvin Beachum more as a blocking tight end in an effort to get better run blocking; he played only two downs.
• Letting Roethlisberger call more of his own plays, something the quarterback obviously enjoys. But Tomlin isn't blaming the play-calling.
“There's been a problem with our functioning,” he said. “There's been a problem with our production. There's been a problem with our points. You can point to whatever you want to.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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