Steelers are finding no need for no-huddle with recent surge on offense
The Steelers turned around their season a year ago by running the no-huddle offense, just as Ben Roethlisberger long wanted to do.
The system became such a point of emphasis during the offseason that Roethlisberger said it was on the verge of becoming the Steelers’ base offense.
But as much as the Steelers practiced, retooled and reworked the no-huddle during the offseason and training camp, it’s been all but discarded during one of the greatest stretches of offensive production in team history.
Now the Steelers are running the no no-huddle offense.
They were in the no-huddle for at least 25 plays during three of their first four games, but the Steelers ran only one no-huddle play Sunday as Roethlisberger threw six touchdown passes against the Baltimore Ravens. He ran seven no-huddle plays each against the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.
The plays were effective — Roethlisberger went 8 for 9 for 88 yards — but the other elements of the offense were working so well that the no-huddle wasn’t needed.
“What we’re doing is working. Why change what we’re doing?” Roethlisberger said Wednesday as the Steelers (6-3) began practicing in advance of playing the New York Jets (1-8) on Sunday.
There’s another reason for forgoing the no-huddle. Going to the no-huddle against a high-scoring team such as the Colts, one that can chew up yards and put up points in a hurry, might be counterproductive.
“When you’re in the no-huddle, you’re moving faster and hopefully you’re scoring quicker,” Roethlisberger said. “If you’re playing a team that possesses the ball and the goal is to possess it longer than them, then why be on and off the field as fast as you can?”
Roethlisberger likes the no-huddle because it pushes the pace, makes it difficult for defenses to substitute situationally and allows him to call most of the plays.
After running only a handful of no-huddle plays when they started 0-4 last year, the Steelers ran at least 15 no-huddle plays in each of their last nine games, a stretch in which they averaged 10 points per game more than they did in their first seven games.
The Steelers were among the top-five teams in the league in no-huddle plays during the first month of this season, but they’ve had only one game with more than 10 no-huddle plays in their past five.
The emergence of rookie receiver Martavis Bryant, who has five touchdown catches in three games, increased production from Markus Wheaton and expanding role of Le’Veon Bell as a receiver and a runner have lessened the need for the no-huddle.
“The receivers are getting open every week and making plays, and our goal is to do that every week: keep him upright, give (Roethlisberger) time to find guys and make plays,” tight end Heath Miller said.
The Steelers also held multiple-touchdown leads for much of the past 10 quarters, so it wasn’t necessary to speed up an offense that already was scoring rapidly. Roethlisberger threw for 862 yards and an NFL-record 12 touchdowns in the past two games.
“When you’re scoring like we’ve been scoring lately, you just keep on going, keep doing what works,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said.
It’s not as if the Steelers can’t go to the no-huddle if needed.
“I like using it because it tires people out, it gets them out of rhythm,” right guard David DeCastro said. “(I like it) if we need to change it up and get them out of their rhythm.”