Pittsburgh Steelers lack of offensive balance evident again

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some question marks despite their 2-0 start.

It’s a team that has gotten off to shaky starts in recent years. In 2018, the Pittsburgh Steelers owned a 1-2-1 record four games into the season. A year ago, Mike Tomlin’s club dropped its first three games of 2019. The former featured a six-game winning streak followed by four losses in their final six outings.

In the 2019 season, the team played the vast majority of the season without their starting quarterback and Tomlin’s team finished 8-8. All told, the Steelers have not been to the playoffs two consecutive years.

Of course, this year’s club is off to a 2-0 start. And veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose 2019 season lasted only six quarters, has been pretty solid in two victories. He’s hit on 68.5 percent of his throws for a combined 540 yards, good for five touchdowns and only one interception. The 17-year pro looked rusty for a quarter and a half in Week 1 against the Giants and seems to be getting more comfortable.

But there was something a little unsettling about the 26-21 win over the visiting Broncos on Sunday. It was the return of a lack of balance by the Pittsburgh offense. In each of their first two games, the Steelers wound up running 64 offensive plays.

In the Monday night victory over the Giants, there were 30 runs and 34 pass plays. On Sunday at home against Denver, there were 22 rushing plays and nearly twice as many pass plays (42). Yes, James Conner ran 16 times for 106 yards but more than half of that total came on a 59-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter.

So is it any wonder that with a 17-3 halftime lead and facing a club that lost its starting quarterback (Drew Lock) on Sunday, Tomlin and company couldn’t put the Broncos away? This is a club that finished with seven sacks, two takeaways and recorded a safety.

But Denver backup Jeff Driskel wound up throwing for 256 yards and two scores, with one pick. And the Steelers suddenly owned just a five-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and wound up hanging on for the win. “We were far from perfect,” said Tomlin (via Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com). “We gotta get better. We’re thankful to win in spite of it.”

There’s Conner, to go along with Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels and rookie Anthony McFarland. There’s also offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, who has taken his share of heat for his game plans. With Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges behind center last season, the club still stressed the pass.

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A solid running game would make life easier for “Big Ben” as well as the Steelers’ defense. As Tomlin and company found out in 2018 when the club abandoned the run late in the year and wound up losing four of their final six games, it’s very easy for a season to get away from a team.