Say what you want about Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense. Go ahead and press charges against head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for grand larceny with how people think they have robbed this team of its fabled smashmouth running style.
But also take the time to look at what this unit has accomplished so far this year.
They are eighth in the league in total yards per game (369.2), seventh in passing yards per game (263.1) and eighth in average time of possession (32:54). All the while, they have contributed to an 8-7 record that would be a lot more favorable if not for six losses in which the defense gave up a fourth quarter lead.
Tomlin and Arians have taken so many questions throughout the season as to why the team’s offensive philosophy has generously incorporated the pass in favor of the run, and their answer has been the same: they want to create balance in the offense.
Let’s start with Roethlisberger. He has completed more than 66% of his passes for 4,108 yards (the first Steelers quarterback EVER to throw for 4,000 in a season) with almost twice as many touchdowns (23) as interceptions (12), all while having been sacked 47 times. Even if he hadn’t passed for a team record 503 yards and led the game-winning drive (perhaps one of the most thrilling in team history) last week against Green Bay, he would still be having, arguably, the most outstanding season in the team’s history for a quarterback.
Let’s face it, the only negatives for him this season are the 47 sacks, the concussion he sustained in the Week 11 loss to Kansas City that made him miss Week 12, and the fact that the mustache he’s growing these days makes him look like Nacho Libre.
Roethlisberger’s receiving corps has performed above and beyond expectations this season. Santonio Holmes (78 receptions, 1,243 yards) is adding onto his legacy as last year’s Super Bowl MVP with the type of season that has moved him to the top as the team’s marquee receiver. Hines Ward, another former Super Bowl MVP, the guy who formerly held the marquee receiver title and was said to not only be slowing down, but was also voted the “dirtiest player in the league” (one Steeler called that superlative “retarded” — I’m not making that up) is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career (87 rec., 1,106 yards), and is cementing his status as a soon-to-be Hall of Famer.
Mix in what should be a Pro Bowl season for tight end Heath Miller (71 rec., 733 yards, 5 TDs) and the emergence of rookie speedster Mike Wallace (692 rec. yards, 18.7 yards per catch, 5 TDs), and you have a group where Big Ben can force defenders to pick their poison.
But with all of this success in the passing game, the running game must be suffering, right? Not exactly.
Former first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall has 1,014 rushing yards on only 222 carries for an impressive 4.6 yards per carry (seventh in the league among all RBs with at least 200 carries). The only thing more impressive is that he didn’t become the starter until Week 4, and was benched by Tomlin for, “not being on the details.” It’s safe to say he’s on them now.
So what’s my point in all this? Only that the Steelers have a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers, and a 1,000-yard running back. The Bradshaw-Swann-Stallworth-Harris foursome never even accomplished that. In fact, no Steeler offense has.
Say what you what about this offense. Despite the lackluster and inconsistent play of their offensive line, their failures on third downs, and their struggles in the red zone, they’ve done what they wanted to do. In fact, they’ve even gone above and beyond.
Other musings from the holiday weekend:
- Congratulations to Dave Wannstedt and the Pitt football team for winning the Meineke Car Care Bowl over North Carolina. Not only did they win their 10th game — the first time a Pitt team has done so since the year I was born — they also won a close game that could’ve ended the way their last two games did with a loss. But they hung tough, overcame some otherwise damning mistakes and beat a very good North Carolina program.
- With National Freshman of the Year Dion Lewis expected to play at least two more years at tailback and some great local recruiting being done by Coach ‘Stache, it’s safe to say Pitt has some great days ahead. I predicted when Wannstedt was hired five years ago that he would win the Big East and make it to a BCS bowl game by his fifth year. I fell one point short in that prediction, thanks to Cincinnati.
- When Florida head football coach Urban Meyer announced Saturday that he was stepping down in favor of his health and his family, I applauded him. Then he went ahead and changed his mind 24 hours later and said he would only take a leave of absence. So much for the emphasis on his health and family. When he first told his family about his decision to resign, his daughter hugged him and said, “I get my daddy back.” I wonder if she punched him when he changed his mind.
Kudos to Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell for pulling his starters in the second half of their loss to the Jets and ending their unbeaten run this season. Caldwell had as many as 20 different players on the injury report over the last two weeks, and he took the opportunity to rest his starters and let some injured players get time to get healthy for the postseason. The goal every season is to win a championship, not to go undefeated (Ask Bill Belichick and the 2007 Patriots if they want a mulligan). Caldwell gets it. If the Colts win the Super Bowl, I hope he leans into the microphone, holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy and tells all his critics he’s got two words for them…
- The Pirates are receiving as much praise as criticism for their non-tendering of relief pitcher Matt Capps. Capps signed with the Washington Nationals last week for a one-year, $3.5million deal for a shot to be their closer. I’ll break down why Capps had worn out his welcome as a closer at a later date, but I have to scratch my head, seeing that he went from closing for the team with the second-worst record in baseball this past season to the team with the worst record. He must have the same agent as Larry Foote.
In the meantime, I hope everybody enjoyed their holiday season. Till next time folks…