Is Ben enough to lift Steelers?
Is Ben enough to lift Steelers?
August 23, 2013
By Bob Smizik
There is a school of thought, widely held, that states while the outcome of NFL exhibition games are unimportant, the performance of the individual players are vitally important.
I'm here to tell you this: Don't believe it.
For example, right before our eyes Monday night we saw Le'Veon Bell, the great hope, average 2.25 yards on four early carries. There was no running room. Except when Bell was injured, Jonathan Dwyer came on and ran for 12 yards on his first carry. Bell finished with 9 yards on four carries, Dwyer with 68 yards on 14 carries.
Everyone who thinks Dwyer is better than Bell, raise your hand.
One exhibition game, two exhibition games are no barometer of playing talent, particularly to the untrained eye, and I'm including all of us in that. In fact, one of two games in the regular season is not necessarily a true indicator of player performance.
For example, in consecutive games last year, Dwyer ran for 122 and 107 yards. A week later Isaac Redman ran for 147. Pretty good, right?
Then explain to me why the Steelers used a second-round pick on Bell when they had two such studs in the backfield? Because they didn't. Because even a two-game snapshot in the regular season is not a fully accurate measure of talent.
The most important thing you need to know about the Steelers is this: Ben Roethlisberger is their quarterback. His nine-year career is a clear indication he is one of the best in the NFL and possibly on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory. As long as the Steelers have a franchise quarterback, they are capable of winning any game. That's why they're called franchise quarterbacks.
But that doesn't mean they can win every game. Roethlisberger gives the Steelers a chance. But he also must have the right supporting cast on offense and defense. That's where the Steelers run into trouble -- those pesky "other starters."
There is a talent void on this team and it has been caused by a lackluster record in recent drafts. It was bound to happen. There's an element of luck in drafting and developing football players that not even the most brilliant general manager can overcome.
That's not to excuse Kevin Colbert, the architect of two Super Bowl champions and a string of highly successful teams. Some snickered when the Rooneys hired Colbert, noting his primary qualification for the job was his North Catholic High School diploma. Colbert has proven them completely wrong. But, truth be known, his work has suffered a bit in recent years.
It's not so much to whom Roethlisberger will throw. He's good enough to make even an ordinary wide receiver look good. The question is: Do they have a wide receiver with the ability to make an ordinary quarterback look good? The Steelers don't have that.
They have such a tight end in Heath Miller, but he is injured, not expected to start the season and if not out of his prime, close to that status.
At running back, maybe Bell is the guy. But is he a difference maker? Is he a Bettis?
The offensive line looked ridiculously inept Monday against Washington, which is another example of the meaningless of exhibition games. These guys are going to be OK. Whether they are going to mold into a Super Bowl-winning line -- at any point in their careers -- remains to be determined.
On defense, an aging secondary -- Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor have been around for a combined 34 seasons -- and a questionable front three don't bode well. Maybe the linebackers can pick them up. Maybe Polamalu has another great season left in him.
With Roethlisberger around, the Steelers always will have a chance. Their chances this year would be better with a better supporting cast.
Roethlisberger reinforces his belief in offensive line, running game
By Alan Robinson
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013
While the starting running back in the Steelers' offense might be the last man standing, Ben Roethlisberger often is the first man down.
The NFL's most-sacked quarterback since breaking into the league in 2004 — he's been dropped 344 times, or 110 times more than any other QB — Roethlisberger spent much of Monday night running for his proverbial football life against the Redskins.
The Steelers' offensive line was pushed around by the Redskins' defensive interior, and Roethlisberger was forced repeatedly to scramble, improvise and create on the run — exactly what offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to avoid during the regular season, much less the preseason.
With his 10th season only two weeks away, Roethlisberger is lacking his top two receivers from last season in Heath Miller and Mike Wallace and is likely to be without his projected starting running back, the injured Le'Veon Bell. The offensive line charged to protect him is the Steelers' youngest and least experienced in more than a half-century.
But asked Thursday to assess his line, Roethlisberger said, “My faith is at an all-time high.”
Roethlisberger also said he believes the Steelers will get through Bell's injury layoff without extreme difficulty because Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Baron Batch already have varying measures of experience.
“You always want to be able to run the ball. It makes you more balanced, and it opens up the play-action pass,” Roethlisberger said. “It's a big key for us. We have guys who have done it before … and we hope to get (Bell) back.”
To Roethlisberger, Wallace's departure will be countered by the addition of rookie wideout Markus Wheaton. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders also will get more chances to make plays downfield.
Call Roethlisberger a believer, even during a time when others are having trouble keeping the faith in a starting offense that has yet to get into the end zone during the preseason games.
He especially believes in the offensive line of Mike Adams, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert, which has struggled in pass protection partly because, Roethlisberger said, most of the two games were spent working on the running game.
“I know who they are and what they bring to the table,” Roethlisberger said. “I see them work in practice and training camp, and I see the continuity they have.”
Despite the constant pressure, Roethlisberger completed 5 of 6 passes for 66 yards against the Redskins with an interception that went for a touchdown. He has looked strong throwing the ball since recovering from his 2012 shoulder and upper-chest injuries, with coach Mike Tomlin saying last week that he's “hosing” the ball.
Roethlisberger and the rest of the starters figure to play at least a half against the Chiefs at Heinz Field on Saturday night, and for the first time in this preseason, they will be given a game plan. The quarterback believes that will help prevent some of the mistakes and offensive line breakdowns.
“We haven't been doing that, and we got caught in situations we weren't quite prepared for,” he said.
Roethlisberger has known for months that he would enter the regular season without Miller, who is rehabilitating from a major late-season knee injury. For now, David Paulson and David Johnson — with a combined 25 NFL catches between them — will be the primary replacements for Miller, who had 71 of his 408 career catches last season.
“Heath is special, one of the best tight ends in the game,” Roethlisberger said. “But it's like when guys leave here, we don't ask (the replacements) to be anything other than what they can be. We're not asking David Paulson and DJ to be Heath. Just be the best they can be and do a good job of filling in until he's ready to come back.”
Fans and media think they know the answers but they don't even know where the problems are.