You always want to see improvement from a team implementing a new system. That is exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has shown us over the first three weeks of the season.
While the run offense hasn’t come together as Todd Haley would have hoped—they rank 30th in the league with 65 yards per game on the ground—the passing offense is really starting to click.
Ben Roethlisberger has embraced Haley’s offensive scheme, and the results are paying off, as the Steelers are the sixth-ranked passing offense in the league with 284.3 yards per game.
More importantly, the scoring offense is even better, as the Steelers have averaged 25.7 points per game, well over last season’s 20.3 points-per-game rate.
The encouraging news is that the Steelers offense is getting more productive by the week.
Haley has also begun to focus on the areas of the offense that are working, and what has been working so far has been throwing the ball.
Roethlisberger has not thrown the ball fewer than 31 times, including 49 passes this past week. He has virtually carried the offense on his back, throwing for eight touchdowns already.
Though Roethlisberger has been impressive, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that more needs to be done.
"We feel like we're close, we're just not there yet."
They weren’t quite there against the Raiders, when Roethlisberger had a chance to drive the team for a win late in the game but failed as the offensive line was unable to provide him with adequate protection.
Beyond this moment, the line has come together quite well.
Roethlisberger has been sacked eight times, but three of those came in the final four plays against the Broncos. Overall, he has had time to make passes, and even if he hasn’t, he's used his mobility to escape the pressure.
The new offensive scheme has provided Roethlisberger with a number of short targets, and he has been sure to use them all.
Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown have been the top targets for Roethlisberger, and both have been outstanding. With an increased role for Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers have one of the best receiving trios in the league, but that does not mean that they are the only targets.
Roethlisberger hasn’t hit fewer than nine different receivers in each game and has utilized not just his receivers, but also the running backs and tight ends.
The running backs have caught 19 passes, the tight ends 16—including 15 by Heath Miller—and 47 by the wide receivers.
The use of Miller is another major sign that the offense is changing directions. He caught eight passes last week and has become a major threat in the red zone, as he now has four touchdown receptions.
It is this type of production in the red zone that the Steelers lacked last season, and it is one of the main reasons that the offense has been so productive this year.
Though the Steelers sit at 1-2 entering the bye week, the offense is progressing very nicely. If this growth continues, they may be one of the best offenses in the league by the end of the season.
The defense has carried the offense for many years, but this season their roles will be reversed. The Steelers offense will have to continue its upward trend if Pittsburgh wants to make a run at the playoffs.
So far, the development of the offense is right on track. Better things are sure to come.