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Time to Ramp Up the Steelers Offense

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to use more of their 39-year-old quarterback.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense looks different than last year's offense in many ways - there are more runs under center, and they're even utilizing more play-action than they have in previous seasons. However, the offense is still far from being considered proficient or even above average.

The most notable issue is how slow the offense starts in games, which is considerably more problematic when the defense has also struggled, leading to enormous deficits to the opposition. The Steelers are only averaging 7.5 points per game in the first half of the season, which ranks 28th in the NFL. In the second half of games, their offense moves up to tenth in the NFL.

So what's different?

The Steelers operate at the second slowest pace in the NFL in the first half of games at 30.33 seconds/per play, according to Football Outsiders. In the second half of games, the offense moves at the fastest pace in the NFL at 24.78 seconds/per play.

While Roethlisberger has always seemed to prefer to wait a while before snapping the football, trying to force defenses into revealing their disguises, there seems to be more to it.

Roethlisberger ranks 29th in the NFL in no-huddle pass attempts in the first half of games, according to Sports Info Solutions. The true definition of no-huddle can sometimes be a little murky.

The Steelers, among other teams, will often times run a "muddle huddle," which is a form of hurry up where there is also a condensed and quick huddle that serves a similar purpose. The point remains the same, though. Roethlisberger has always been a QB that thrives in these situations, so why aren't the Steelers using it to their advantage?

All of this comes just one season after Roethlisberger posted a 122.9 passer rating in the no-huddle a season ago, according to SIS. There have been questions about his ability to be the focal point of an offense this late in his career. The team wanted and needed more balance. He took a lot of criticism after struggling early this year, dealing with injuries, and not playing up to the standard he's been accustomed to. Still, it feels like a peculiar decision to do away with this offense altogether.

Steelers fans aren't the only ones to acknowledge the distinct difference in the offense. Receivers have made comments about Roethlisberger's command of the no-huddle and ability to put guys in position to make plays. James Washington's most recent comments to the media were interesting.

"When we just let Ben go with the flow, Ben usually dials up some pretty good things," Washington said. "We get a ton of touchdowns off of that."

The 18-year veteran has played more games for the team than anyone else in franchise history. Just about every defense known to man, every disguise ever invented, has probably been thrown his way a few dozen times. You don't throw 415 touchdown passes without being an impressive football mind.

Washington also pointed out the football common sensical impact of the no-huddle. 

"Going up-tempo never allows the defense to get into the right personnel," he said. 

Playing up-tempo dictates matchups because the defense can't insert new defenders. It also slows down their pass rushers up front, forcing them to exert energy play after play without any substitutions in sight.

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Following the Vikings loss, Roethlisberger was asked about the increased no-huddle usage in the second half and when do they know it's time to go to that offense.

He replied, "usually when we have to. It feels like that, at least."

Of course, referring to the big deficits that the team has stared down in recent weeks, but the question is, why won't the Steelers do this earlier in games?

What is the potential downside of a move like this, you ask? If you're not converting on offense, it could lead to your defense being gassed after being left on the field for excessive amounts of time. However, it's hard to really give that much consideration given the fact that the Steelers defense has allowed over 20 points per game in the first half in the last three weeks. Whether it's primarily due to injuries or execution, the defense isn't getting stops anyways.

Roethlisberger also mentioned that Coach Canada is always in his ear during those moments. Running the no-huddle doesn't necessarily mean that Canada has to give up all of the play calling, nor does it mean that they have to abandon the run. This can and should be a collaborative effort between the two in order to make sure that the offense runs as efficiently as possible.

The Steelers clearly envisioned taking more off of Roethlisberger's plate a year after leading the NFL in passing attempts. The hope in the offseason was that the Steelers would run the ball more efficiently and play really good defense in order to keep them in games. While the offense has been about what we could have expected, neither of those two things have happened with any sort of consistency. It's time to shift this offense into whatever is going to make Roethlisberger more comfortable and effective.

Go up-tempo earlier and see if Roethlisberger can help save the day in likely his final season as the Steelers signal-caller. 

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