It's been an ugly start for the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers offense to say the least. Currently, Pittsburgh ranks 31st in the league in total offense, only out-dueling the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars by 46 total yards.
That's pretty pathetic.
The Steelers are 31st in the run game this season, piling up only 75 yards on the ground in their first two games. That means 34 individual players have rushed for more yards than the Steelers team, and Adrian Peterson's opening run of the 2013 campaign was three more yards than the team could manage in two contests.
But the offensive issues don't stop with the run game.
Yet again, Pittsburgh has struggled protecting its franchise quarterback, allowing seven sacks this season. The receiving corps lacks explosion down the field, and the team is already facing major injury woes.
Pittsburgh needs to fix the offense and it needs to fix it now if it stills want a shot at the postseason. Let's take a look at five ways it can get that done.
It's becoming more the norm and less a gimmick across the NFL landscape and for good reason. Quarterbacks love the no-huddle offense. In 2013, Ben Roethlisberger has looked like one of those quarterbacks.
Last year, Todd Haley's first as offensive coordinator, it was reported that the no-huddle was to be a big part of the offense going forward. In reality, the Steelers never really got around to it.
This season, however, Pittsburgh has looked at its best when in the no-huddle, and Ben is calling the shots from the line.
Against Tennessee, the Steelers punched in their only touchdown of the game from the no-huddle and in Week 2, Pittsburgh sustained three drives with the offense.
Roethlisberger is the best player on the Steelers and certainly on the offense. The team should be putting the ball in his hands. The no-huddle offense is the best way to accomplish that.
Short, Quick Passing Game
The Steelers have been at their best in the no-huddle offense this season, but there's more to it than that. They've been at their absolute best when connecting on short, crossing routes.
That style of offense makes sense for Pittsburgh. It doesn't have an offensive line that can protect Roethlisberger long enough to work the deep ball and its receivers fit the mold of that system. Both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are under 6-foot tall and both are at their best after the catch.
Getting the ball in Brown and Sanders' hands quickly and letting them run has worked well thus far for Pittsburgh, it just hasn't gone to it all that much. It would also help preserve Roethlisberger.
Let the Pass Set Up the Run
Let's face it, the way the Steelers are currently trying to run the ball isn't working—at all. They need to change something.
One thing they could look into is (gulp) becoming a pass-first team and allowing that pass to set up the run.
If we're staying on our current approach, Pittsburgh could use the shotgun, no-huddle offense to effectively use the quick-strike passing attack. That could open up some running lanes in a zone-scheme rushing attack.
Pittsburgh ran the ball better in the first half against Cincinnati but just abandoned the ground game after halftime. With a guy like Le'Veon Bell (when he returns from injury), who is a terrific one-cut runner, it could effectively practice the zone-blocking scheme. With an effective passing attack, lanes could open up for these backs.
It's probably doubtful that the Steelers become a pass-first football team, despite the fact that their best player is their quarterback. But something has to be done to fix the run game. Whether it is a personnel change or a scheme design, Pittsburgh needs better production out of its ground game.
Infusion of Markus Wheaton
The Steelers have certainly tried to work the ball deep this season but to no avail. In my opinion, they're going about it the wrong way.
Pittsburgh spent a third-round pick on Markus Wheaton to bring some speed back to an offense that lost Mike Wallace to free agency. But Wheaton has struggled to find time on the football field, even running his trademark go routes.
The Steelers have been trying to hit mostly Emmanuel Sanders deep this season, but he hasn't won a single one of those battles. Frankly, he's probably not going to. Sanders, or any Steelers receiver for that matter, isn't built to beat a defense deep—Wheaton is.
Pittsburgh doesn't have to be a deep-strike team, but it needs some sort of threat on the football field. Wheaton can bring that to this offense. I look for the Steelers to work Wheaton in the offense more and more in the coming weeks.
A Healthy Heath Miller
It's pretty obvious that the Steelers miss tight end Heath Miller both in the pass and the run games. For instance, Miller caught 71 passes last season in 15 games. In 2013, David Paulson and David Johnson have managed just four catches in two games.
Miller's impact can also be felt in the run game. He is one of the most complete tight ends in the league and one of the better blockers. Pittsburgh has certainly struggled running the ball this year but especially on the edges. That's traditionally Miller's assignment.
Getting a healthy Miller back could do wonders for this offense. For starters, Roethlisberger gets his safety valve back and probably his best receiver. He automatically makes this a better team in the red zone and improves the run game.
Miller remains one of the most underappreciated players in all of football. His return to the offense could do wonders for this team.
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