Thursday, November 8, 2012

Steelers Midseason Review: Offense

It's hard to imagine, but we are halfway home in the 2012 NFL season. As I've said time and again, the complexion of the league changes every four weeks. The teams that are dominant at the beginning of the season aren't always the ones that are the best at the end. Look at what has happened over the last four weeks. After Week 5 the Steelers were sitting at 2-2 and some had proclaimed them dead in the water with Baltimore sitting at 4-1 atop the division and Cincinnati standing in the way. Now, Cincinnati has dropped 4 in a row and sunk to 3-5 and it's the Steelers at 5-3 who look like a threat to challenge for the division crown.

Today, I take a look back at how the Steelers offense has performed over the first half of the season.


How many good things can I say about Ben Roethlisberger? If it wasn't for the Steelers 3 losses, he would be right in the thick of the league MVP conversation. He is on pace for career highs in completions, attempts, yards, touchdowns and a career-low sack percentage (sacks divided by drop-backs). He also has 2 Fourth Quarter Comebacks and 3 Game Winning Drives. Ben has executed Todd Haley's offense to perfection and in turn is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

Running Back

Coming into the season, we knew this would be somewhat of a "by committee" approach with Redman and Dwyer sharing the load until Mendenhall got back. The ground game started slow this season, but since the Bye Week the Steelers have ran for over 120 yards in 4 of the 5 games. The only game they didn't was the loss to Tennessee when they only managed 56. The Steelers have produced a 100-yard rusher each of the last 3 weeks and start the second half against a Chiefs team ranked 22nd in the league in run defense. They do have some injury issues as Mendenhall is working through an Achilles injury, Redman has two sprained ankles, Dwyer has a quad injury and Rainey has bruised ribs.

Wide Receiver

The Steelers may have the most dangerous receiving corps in the league with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders. Wallace has underperformed by most standards this season, but he has been asked to be more of a complete receiver rather than just a deep threat. He has adjusted his game and is starting to come around. He has shown improvement on slant routes and making guys miss in space, evidenced by the 51-yard touchdown against the Giants. Wallace still has a problem catching the ball in his hands - something he's obviously been working towards after catching a lot of balls in his chest and stomach over the first 3 years of his career. Antonio Brown is the most complete receiver on the team but his ankle injury against the Giants could be cause for concern. Sanders hasn't put up a lot of big numbers, but every one of his catches has been meaningful and at clutch points in games.

Tight End

The nation is finally starting to see what Steelers fans have known for a long time - that Heath Miller is one of the best tight ends in the league. Heath is on pace for a career year in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards. He absolutely owns the middle of the field and (as always) has been a dominant blocker. Haley has employed Heath as one of the primary red zone targets and it has paid off, with the Steelers cashing in their red zone opportunities and Heath racking up the touchdowns. Heath is having a  Pro Bowl year and deserves that trip to Hawaii. Vote for him. 

Offensive Line

This was a unit that entered the season with some big question marks. First round pick David DeCastro went down in the preseason and Ramon Foster was called into duty at RG once again. Willie Colon was moved inside to LG and Max Starks was brought back to play LT, beating out rookie Mike Adams in camp. Eight weeks into the season, one of the starting five (Marcus Gilbert) has missed much of the season due to injury and the centerpiece (Pouncey) has also missed a game. Mike Adams is now the starter at RT with Gilbert injured and he has held his own. He has struggled one-on-one against dominant pass rushers like JPP and Justin Tuck, but Haley has done a great job of using TEs and RBs to give Adams help in pass protection and he has been a monster in run blocking. After a terrible start to the season, Colon has cut down on the amount of back-breaking penalties he has taken and the unit as a whole has come together and started to dominate the last month. After being sacked 9 times in the first 3 weeks, Ben was only sacked 4 times in the next four, including two games where he stayed clean the entire game.

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