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2014 Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers Offense

By Mike Drakulich

Life, at it’s peak, is always about balance. In the NFL, balance brings you success, and success brings you Super Bowl hardware.

More often than not, a team with a strong defense led by a balanced offense, normally equates to a team raising the Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the Super Bowl.

The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to achieve that balance this season through a revamped defense, and an offense that is ready to roll under Ben Roethlisberger.

When the Steelers have won it all, they’ve done it with that formula.

During the Steelers Dynasty of the 70’s, Chuck Noll’s offenses were known for their bruising running game, which pounded opponents into submission with it’s relentless approach.

Everyone is well aware of the names of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. When called upon, the team opened the passing game up under Terry Bradshaw, and legends in John Stallworth and Lynn Swann were born.

Through it all, the Steelers employed a balanced offense and that brought them an unprecedented four Super Bowl Championships in six years.

Like Noll, his successor in Bill Cowher also believed in a power running game. With Jerome Bettis, the Steelers wore their enemies down and took over in the 4th quarter, a specialty under Cowher. That philosophy lead to a playoff berth in 10 out of 15 seasons under Cowher.

Though Cowher’s teams were always very successful and in the mix for a Super Bowl, it wasn’t until Roethlisberger was drafted that the team finally broke through and claimed it’s 5th World Title back in Super Bowl XL against Seattle.

The missing ingredient, a strong passing game when needed, was all Cowher needed to complete his recipe for glory.

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin also favors a strong running game. At least he states he does.

Unfortunately for Tomlin, the Steelers haven’t had a team that finished in the Top-10 in Rushing since 2007, which was Tomlin’s first year as Pittsburgh’s HC.

In his 2nd season, the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII under Tomlin, as they defeated Arizona 27-23. They were lead by a punishing defense that only allowed a paltry 237.2 yards a game. That team had an offense that was great when it needed to be, but by no means was it dominating. But the equation for success was there, and that led to a 6th Ring for Pittsburgh.

Last year, the Steelers rushed for only 1,383 yards. That was the fewest yards gained by a Steelers team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

That lack of balance led to another mediocre 8-8 record, and a second straight year of the Steelers watching the playoffs from their couches at home.

Since Tomlin took over, the Steelers haven’t had a true identity of what they want to be on offense.

They want to run the ball, but seldom has it been successful, due to untimely injuries to the running backs, the offensive line, or both.

They want to pass the ball, but even under Cowher, they’ve never truly turned the dogs loose with Roethlisbeger at the helm. Like a restored Shelby Mustang that sits in a showroom, it seems as if Ben Roethlisberger has been under wraps for his entire tenure as a Steeler.

Finally, in his 11th season, it looks as if the Steelers intend open the showroom doors and hand the keys to the Mustang over to Big Ben.

Like any quarterback, Roethlisberger has long sought to have control of the offense just as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees have all enjoyed in their respective careers.

Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley will still be a big part of the offensive game plan, but the offense will be designed to flow under the decisions and the play making of Roethlisberger.

In 2014, Roethlisberger intends to play to his strengths, utilizing a faster paced No-Huddle offense similar to Jim Kelly’s K-Gun that the Buffalo Bills employed in the 90’s.

Armed with a bevy a talented receivers led by Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger is looking to have his best year ever. Markus Wheaton looks primed to have a breakout year in his 2nd season. Lance Moore has always been a reliable target, just as he was with the Saints. Martavis Bryant is the tall target Big Ben has coveted, and now he has him at his disposal in the Red Zone. Darrius Heyward-Bey brings experience to the group, and Justin Brown has been turning heads all camp. It’s a deep group that is going to be fun to watch develop.

At Tight End, one of Ben’s favorite targets in Heath Miller is back to full health.

A restored and healthy offensive line under the tutelage of another Hall of Famer in Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak, and a running game featuring a power duo of Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, not to mention a speed burner in Dri Archer, the Steelers have an offense that is capable of causing a lot of damage.

If Bell is able to rise to his expectations, the Steelers should have a running game that will be tough to stop. Bell has a nice blend of speed and power, and can also catch passes out of the backfield, as well. Blount brings a bruising element in short yardage situations, and a toughness the Steelers have lacked since Jerome Bettis retired. Dri Archer is a weapon the Steelers haven’t had in a long time. The Steelers plan on using him all over the field creating headaches for defenses with his 4.2 speed.

A No-Huddle, when run properly, keeps opposing defenses off balance and from getting the proper substitutions needed to stop it. When Roethlisberger is at his best, he extends plays and finds the open receiver resulting in extended drives and more scoring chances.

Some people may scoff at this and say it kills Time of Possession, resulting in a tired defense, but that’s always confused with the “Hurry-Up” or the “2-Minute Offense” that teams use at the end of the half or game. A No-Huddle doesn’t mean the team is in hurry up mode like a Chip Kelly or a Todd Graham utilizes, it’s designed to be ready to snap the ball at any moment, be that early or late in the 40 second play clock.

Roethlisberger has always gotten the ball moving when this has been applied during games, so why not let him roll with it if it leads to points?

The formula for success is present once again for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are expected to have a strong defense built on speed and creating chaos. Now it’s time for the offense to find the proper balance under Roethlisberger’s vision. If they do, you can almost ink the Steelers down for winning the AFC North crown in 2014.

Lock and load, the 2014 Steelers offense is ready to come out guns blazing.

[airesizeimg src=”” alt=”Ben Roethlisberger” class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-5696″ ]

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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