When the Pittsburgh Steelers exploded for 264 yards on the ground against the Carolina Panthers, they seemed on the right path to finding the identity they have been searching for. With both Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount rushing for over 100 yards, it seemed like the old days of Steelers power football would be making its return.
With a chance to further cement that, the Steelers decided to go away from what worked just a week earlier against a far better opponent. Pittsburgh was simple in their dominance of Carolina. Pound the ball with Bell and Blount, rinse, repeat.
So why did they feel the need to get cute against a team that was just blown out of the water a week prior? A fullback screen on the first play of the game? And then you follow up by ignoring the player with the most scrimmage yards in the entire NFL? How’d that work out? Consecutive sacks with the latter a forced fumble to set Tampa Bay up with a first and goal.
With the score 10-0, the Steelers had the ball inside the opponents ten yard line. Bell and Blount are big guys with a combined weight right at 500-pounds. Show your authority. Make them respect you. The offensive line has shown the ability to open up running lanes, even against the best of front sevens, but instead they throw to change of pace back Dri Archer followed by two incomplete passes short of the endzone.
You might as well have called the game right there.
What was the coaching staff trying to prove? What as a team were they trying to accomplish?
Ever since Mike Tomlin has taken over, the Steelers have searched long and hard for an identity on offense. Do they want to pound the football in the way they are so obviously built to do? Or do they Roethlisberger to take the reins and sling the ball up and down the field?
Ideally any offense would like to live somewhere in between the two, but when everything has pointed to the team excelling doing the former rather than the latter – why not roll with the tide?
Running the ball more may not have been the crucial factor in terms of the team winning or losing (penalties will get the nod there) but establishing the run early on and not trying to be something they are not could have opened up things later – or at the very least wore down the defense enough to make it easier to run come crunch time.
Pittsburgh, all the way around, missed a golden opportunity to keep pace with the top of the AFC North. What was supposed to be two easily winnable games against the Bucs and the Jacksonville Jaguars could have had them at the top of the division. Now they’re most likely to be kept at the middle of the pack.
All because they refuse to believe in what they are, and what they can be. It’s not just the fan base’s crazy “fantasy world.” The Carolina game proved it can be a reality.
Will Tomlin and company admit it so, or will they continue to try to prove themselves by being something they are not? They better decide soon, because another ‘average’ season may lead them to having to prove themselves in the interview process for other teams.
Thank you for reading. Please take a moment and follow me on Twitter –@AMurphyLWOS.
Support LWOS by following us on Twitter – @LastWordOnSport and@LWOSworld – and “liking” our Facebook page.
For the latest in sports injury news, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.
Have you tuned into Last Word On Sports Radio? LWOS is pleased to bring you 24/7 sports radio to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. What are you waiting for?