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How To Improve A Stagnant Offense

Alright, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way – the Steelers offense stinks this year. Saying that it’s been horrible is probably an overstatement but let’s look at some facts –

– The Steelers have scored less than 20 points in 6 games this year (you could include the Pats game as well since the Steelers didn’t actually start scoring in that game until it was all but over in the 4th quarter, which would bring the total to 7, which is over half the games played so far this year).

– The Steelers are 21st in the league in total offensive yards.

– The Steelers are 15th in points per game.

There are a few main reasons for this – Bruce Arians’ schemes and playcalling, the Steelers asinine approach to the run game (running the ball off tackle 70% of the time on 1st down) and a mediocre and beat up O-line.

We could go more into these areas of concern (like Mendenhall’s declining numbers in the run game, his average per carry is now under 4 yards. which is tied for 3rd worst among the top 30 rushers in the league) but let’s look at what the Steelers could actually do to improve the offense.

– STOP running the ball so much on 1st down! Seriously, how much longer do we have to endure watching Mendenhall do his patented “spin-o-rama” behind a mediocre O-line while the opposing defense sells out to stop it on 1st down because it’s so obvious the run is coming? This is the main reason why Mendenhall’s  per carry average is plummeting this year. When you have a mediocre O-line and the opposing defense knows you’re probably running it on 1st down, that’s trouble. Mix it up better on the early downs, mix up plays that are run out of certain formations. Try being creative with the run plays instead of continually running off tackle. I’m starting to think the Steelers only have 1 run play.

– Try running the ball out of spread formations more. The Steelers did this more last year with good results. Why it hasn’t been used more this year is a mystery.

– Reduce the involvement of the 5 wide empty set formation. This just tells the defense that a pass is coming which usually results in Ben throwing the ball away as the opposing defense blitzes more guys than the O-line can block. Stop being so predictable. This formation is especially bad in the redzone where opposing defenses have less room to cover and are more prone to blitz. The Steelers scored a TD against the Ravens with this formation but look what it took to score it, Ben dumping it off right away to just the 5-6 yard line because the Ravens blitzed and then Redman breaking about 3 tackles en route to the endzone. 9 times out of 10 he’s getting tackled at about the 3 or 4 yard line.

– Use more short passes. The Steelers seem to run a couple of these plays per game with good results and yet Arians never goes back to it, which is one of the most frustrating aspects of this offense. Short passes to Heath Miller, Mendenhall, Moore, etc. work! Use them MORE! In doing so it’ll take pressure off the O-line and Ben. I don’t know of too many other offenses where the QB is asked to make so many passes downfield for an offense to be effective. It’s ridiculous to expect that out of a QB (even one as good as Ben) game after game.

– Speaking of Heath Miller, this is a player that is continually misused and underused. Try throwing the ball to him more than once a game, he’s got some of the best hands on the entire team and usually drags defenders for an extra 3 or 4 yards.

– Try using the no-huddle earlier in games instead of waiting until the offense has scored a grand total of 3 points at halftime.

– Get the rookies involved more. Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown should be on the field more and Randel El should be sitting on the bench. This is huge as far as the passing game goes. Randel El cannot get open, has mediocre hands and is not very fast.

– Try throwing deep to Mike Wallace more than once a game. It seems like in most games Wallace will get one deep ball thrown his way and that’s it. No reason not to try at least a couple more.

– Don’t be afraid to try some PA in short yardage situations. I know Tomlin and Arians have been hell bent this year in trying to prove that the Steelers can run the ball in short yardage situations. Well, the team cannot do it on a consistent basis, just look at the Ravens game last Sunday for proof of that. Or the Saints game when the Steelers ended up kicking a FG at the Saints GL after failing to get in after successive run attempts.

– Try more crossing routes to free up WR’s.

– Stop sending WR’s on routes that takes them within 3 yards of one another downfield. This has been an ongoing trend that makes me wonder just what the hell is going on with this offense. The Steelers do practice during the week, right? Arians can’t be this incompetent, right? RIGHT?

– How about having a concise gameplan going into a game instead of the “We’re going to do what we’re going to do” mantra and grab bag offense that has been anything but effective this year.

– Finally, if the offense is actually clicking for God’s sake don’t call a stupid trick play!

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