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Year in Review – The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Offense

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Roethlesberger had one of his best seasons in the league. Picture via @FootballBracket

Roethlesberger had one of his best seasons in the league. Picture via @FootballBracket



From the very first snap of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense looked very much a Jekyll and Hyde unit. The ups and downs came early for this team, and in the beginning of the season, the Steelers were a team that many saw as still in the process of retooling. The first game of the season saw the Steelers avoid a near-heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns, a game that would have sent this fan base into full meltdown mode had they blown a 24 point lead at halftime. That game was a microcosm of the Pittsburgh Steelers initial six games of the regular season. Missed opportunities were a theme for the Steelers at the start.

While narrowly escaping Cleveland in the first game of the season, the Steelers kept up the hot and cold act throughout the first half. Through the first six weeks, they had us on a roller coaster ride. Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. Games that should have been easy wins turned out to be nail biters or losses. Initially thought to be one of the hardest games on the schedule in 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers marched into Bank of America Stadium and ripped the hearts out of the Carolina Panthers who previously went 12-4 in 2013. The very next week, the Steelers came back to Heinz Field and played a Tampa Bay team without much to play for at that point. Winless, the Buccaneers were thought to be fodder for the Steelers. Something the team could build off of while heading into Jacksonville the following week. They could begin to “stack wins”, as Tomlin puts it.

There’s a term in sports — “they beat themselves”. I usually disagree with it, especially regarding pro football. There is indeed parity in the NFL and every team, week in and week out, is going to be a challenge. As a franchise, the Steelers historically have “played down” to their opponents, often keeping games closer than they should be. The game against the Bucs could have been an easy blowout for the Steelers. The offense was able to move the ball early and often, but unable to punch it into the end zone efficiently. Tampa Bay was allowed to score points, and with an offense that was quarterbacked by Mike Glennon, any points could be deemed as unacceptable. A couple of crucial missed opportunities happened in this game. Antonio Brown dropped a touchdown pass which would have likely sealed the game for the Steelers, but instead, the Steelers punted and points were left on the field. In the waning stages of the game, the Steelers had possession with 1:44 on the clock. A first down seals the victory for the Steelers, and they can begin to focus on Jacksonville. Instead, the offense gets conservative and the Steelers are forced to punt and give the Bucs a final chance. Brad Wing only managed a 29 yard kick to the Tampa 46 yard line and suddenly, the air was sucked out of the stadium. Ball game.

The Tampa Bay game was simultaneously everything that was right and wrong with the Steelers’ season in the first half. Following wins against Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis and Baltimore and a blowout loss against the Browns, the Steelers went to New Jersey with a good but not great 6-3 record. This game against the Jets followed two games in which Ben Roethlisberger passed for 12 touchdowns, 826 passing yards, over 75% completion percentage and an eye popping 144.6 quarterback rating against what would be two playoff teams. This game should have been another win to stack for this team. A hapless Jets secondary should have posed no threat to the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Instead, the Jets wound up stifling the vaunted Steelers passing attack after losing eight in a row, forcing two interceptions and beating the Steelers 20-13. The inconsistency reached unacceptable levels and the playoffs appeared to be in jeopardy.

After the loss to the Jets, the Steelers would go on to win five of their next six games, including sweeping the then-AFC North leading Bengals in the final month of the regular season. This would give the Steelers an 11-5 record and the AFC North title. Unfortunately, the damage had been done.

If the Steelers had beaten both the Jets and Bucs, both of whom currently have a top 6 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, they would have had the best record in the NFL this season at 13-3. This would’ve given them a bye and allowed Le’Veon Bell to play in the playoffs. It’s disheartening when it’s put like that, isn’t it?

I know it may seem like I thought the entire season was a wash and I’m only focusing on the negative aspects. I do, in fact, believe that this season was a success. As a fan, it’s always disheartening to see what a season could have been, especially if losses against subpar teams who are in the process of a rebuild squeak wins out against you. That said, when looked back on objectively, the season was a success.



Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger. The three B’s, they were called. They were also called the best offensive trio or “triplets” in football. Never before has a team had a quarterback passed for over 4500 yards, a receiver had more than 1500 yards and a running back rush for more than 1000 yards in a single season. When thinking back on the truly great combinations this league has seen, it is an impressive feat to have accomplished.

Ben Roethlisberger likely had the best season for a quarterback, and not just statistically. We as Steelers fans have always talked about the kind of quarterback Roethlisberger could be if he only had a stable offensive line and legitimate weapons to throw to. This season was proof of that. Antonio Brown was arguably the best offensive player in the league last season, and Le’Veon Bell put himself in the discussion (though, if you ask me, it’s a rather short discussion) of being the best running back in football. Both were voted All Pro players, with Brown missing out on being unanimous by one vote. Roethlisberger’s league-high 4952 passing yards, 32 TDs and 67.1% completion percentage either set new or tied career highs for Roethlisberger. He had an MVP-type season, and if he finishes with an NFL-best 13-3 instead of 11-5, he would be an MVP candidate. He had arguably the best two-game stretch a quarterback has ever had in league history against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens and took his offense to second in yards, seventh in points. This season has likely tacked on another zero for his upcoming contract.

Antonio Brown continued the impressive, albeit meaningless, record of catching at least 5 passes and notching 50 receiving yards in two consecutive seasons now. He’s arguably one of, if not the most dynamic offensive player in the league with the ball in his hands and one of those players that opposing defenses can only hope to contain, not stop, on Sundays. Brown has pushed himself into the conversation of being in the top two wide receivers in football behind only Calvin Johnson. Setting not only a career high, but also the second best total in NFL history, with 129 receptions with 1698 receving yards and 13 TDs, Brown has exceeded all expectations. Keep in mind, this is a player once thought of as a product of playing with Mike Wallace. Yikes.

There was talk last season if Bell was ever going to be better than Eddie Lacy. Steelers fans discussed the possibility that we had flubbed the draft pick in taking Bell over Lacy in 2013. All of those doubts, concerns and hesitations were erased this season with his performance. Bell rushed for 1361 yards, second best in the league last season, and notched 854 receiving yards, the league best for running backs. His 2215 total yards from scrimmage was good enough for second in the NFL, and his play this season did not go unnoticed. What makes Bell so dynamic isn’t just his patience, vision and explosiveness in the run game. Nor is it just his ability in open space to make defenders miss and turn nothing into quite often a large gain, it’s his ability in pass protection. If there was a better RB in the NFL last season in pass protection, I don’t know who it was. Bell is the whole package and then some. There simply isn’t a RB in the NFL right now who is as complete, dynamic and explosive as Le’Veon Bell.

The final “B” off the offense this season was Martavis Bryant. While inactive the first six weeks of the season, Bryant burst onto the scene in his rookie season. 549 receiving yards, 26 receptions and 8 TDs shows the kind of potential this kid has. He was recently quoted as saying the sky was the limit for himself and he didn’t want to put a cap on his potential. This is the kind of attitude needed for a receiver playing opposite Antonio Brown.



Perhaps the biggest change we saw in 2014 was along the offensive line. For years, the line was…well, offensive. The lack of talent and poor coaching littered the line itself and coupled with Bruce Arians’ pass happy, seven step drop scheme, Roethlisberger was hit. Often. Now anchored by perennial All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, the offensive line improved dramatically in 2014. The reason, and one of the biggest reasons for success in 2014 was Mike Munchak. Munchak came in and catered the scheme to the talent we already had along the line in Pouncey and David DeCastro. He kept much of the verbiage the same to further the development of the line itself, but implemented a scheme that was best suited not only for the five on the line, but Le’Veon Bell as well. Kelvin Beachum was perhaps the biggest surprise along the line itself and played exceedingly well week to week. We may have finally found the left tackle of the future. Now anchored by DeCastro, Pouncey and Beachum, this line will only continue to improve. When the line is stable, the offense puts up top-5 numbers.

Next week, I will be reviewing the 2014 Steelers Defense, the change at coordinator and important information to take from this season into the off season.

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Follow Connor @cdisted

Connor is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh.