Steelers offense might never be the same after offensive explosion
Nobody will wonder again what Ben Roethlisberger could do if the Steelers turned him loose.
In three remarkable games that reshaped the AFC North race and produced the greatest offensive outburst in Steelers history, Roethlisberger rewrote the NFL record book and thrust himself into the league’s MVP discussion.
Roethlisberger’s record 12 touchdown passes in two games also might signal that the offensive modus operandi they’ve attempted to adopt since pushing out Bruce Arians as coordinator three years ago might be outdated.
When they can throw like this — like they’ve never thrown before — can they possibly turn back into a low-risk offense reliant on the run and short passes, like it was a month ago? The system co-owner Art Rooney II wanted Todd Haley to implement?
The only time linebacker Lawrence Timmons saw numbers like those the Steelers are putting up, he was sitting behind a game console.
“It’s like a video game out there for him. Guys are scoring touchdowns left and right,” Timmons said following the 43-23 rout of the Ravens on Sunday night. “It’s amazing to see.”
Even in this era of NFL instant offense — teams have thrown for 9,000 yards more than they had at this point in 2008 — what Roethlisberger is doing is staggering.
• The Steelers (6-3) are averaging 41.3 points over their past three games, after being held to one touchdown or fewer in three of their first six games. They’ve scored 30 points or more in three consecutive games for the first time since 1972. They’re now No. 3 in the league in scoring (27.6), behind the Patriots and Colts.
• They’ve scored 74 points in the second quarter over their past three games and 117 points for the season. That’s 12 fewer than the Raiders have scored in four quarters. The only other team to score more than 21 points in a quarter in three consecutive games was the 1967 Chiefs.
• Roethlisberger was 88 of 119 for 1,127 yards, 14 TDs and zero interceptions during a three-game homestand sweep of the Texans, Colts and Ravens. “It’s unbelievable,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.
• Roethlisberger is the third quarterback since the 1970 merger to twice throw for six TDs in a game, and he did it in successive contests.
The question now is whether the Steelers can take all this offense on the road against the Jets (1-8) and Titans (2-6) as they try for their first five-game winning streak since 2009. They’re averaging 35.6 points at home but only 17.5 on the road.
And the more Roethlisberger produces, the more money he might be making for himself. The Steelers chose not to give him a new contract this year. Now, his next deal, which they hope to complete during the offseason, could cost them more than they imagined.
NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes agrees Roethlisberger is moving into the mix for the MVP award, along with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and J.J. Watt.
Dukes also wonders if preseason comments by former Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders that Manning is a better leader than Roethlisberger might be driving him, if only subconsciously.
“It’s like he’s rediscovered himself,” Dukes said. “All of a sudden, he’s dug in deep, working like never before. It seems like more than a coincidence.”
Center Maurkice Pouncey hasn’t seen Roethlisberger as focused or in control as he has the past two games, when the Steelers put up a combined 94 points against the Colts and Ravens.
“He’s a lot more serious before games,” Pouncey said. “You can tell whenever he comes up and shakes your hand, it’s like, ‘Let’s go.’ He doesn’t really say much and, when he’s on like that, hopefully he doesn’t say much the rest of the season.”