'07 Offense Short on Big Gains

Joe Starkey does a good job today of detailing the the worrisome dearth of big plays coming from the offense this season, and especially of late. This year the offense has dropped from statistically being in the top-10 to a very pedestrian 14th ranking, despite doing a much better job of avoiding turnovers. With a large similar cast, and strives being made by Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes, other areas have taken a appreciable step back.

Starkey doesn't say it, but the clear culprit, unsurprisingly, is the offensive line.

A perfect example of a big-play breakdown occurred in the loss to New England, when the Steelers lined up on their 48, on the second play of the second half, trailing, 17-13.

"Oh, don't bring up that play," Arians said with a pained laugh.

Parker had just run for 18 yards. It was the ideal time to go deep. Arians called for a bomb to Hines Ward, set up by a fake screen and fake draw.

It went perfectly, except that Patriots tackle Vince Wilfork spun off a double team by Alan Faneca and Sean Mahan, shot up the middle and sacked Roethlisberger before he could unleash.

Ward was wide open for what might have been a 52-yard touchdown.

"Nobody was even around me, but Ben couldn't get the ball down to me," said Ward, whose longest reception this season is just 25 yards. "If we get that block there, the outcome of that game is probably different."

Arians said bad luck caused the sack.

"We had a problem with a protector stepping on another protector's foot. He lost his balance and got beat," Arians said.

Hard luck, huh? I have a pretty secure feeling that if Jeff Hartings were still at center, that play goes for seven. That Willie Parker's longest run of the year is 32 yards and that he only has two touchdowns falls on him as well as the line, but the same holes just aren't there.

Then there's the 38 sacks that Roethlisberger has taken, most in the AFC, that are causing him to miss Wednesday's and Thursday's practice, that have people worried whether he'll start Sunday.

Pitted against the Jiggywires defense this week, the big play paucity isn't likely to get snapped, but they might need it to.


Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

Mahan's been overmatched all season. This week's matchups are especially bad for him.

quiet strength said...

The numbers for pass protection are just kind of weird. They actually gave up more sacks last year – 3.06 per game compared to 2.92 per game this year. But they gained 250 ypg passing compared to 212 this year. And I think it looks even worse when you compare it to 2005 when they only gained 194 ypg but only gave up 2 sacks per game. So I think you really hit it on the head that the pass rush is killing the deep threat, preventing Ben from getting the ball down field. But I think the real conclusion here is that I don’t feel like doing work today.

sides said...

Can't say I was ever real high on the Mahan signing to begin with. But what does it say for how awful Charles Okobi must be?

Besides, quiet strength was right about work.

Cotter said...

Work? Never heard of such a thing.

Mahan is definitely sucking the life out of our deep passing game and is running the risk of becoming the Tommy Maddox of the offensive line (without even the one successful year).

But also, we've been missing Santonio Holmes. Nobody else on the Steelers can get open deep like Santonio...hell, Nate Washington can't even catch the ball and Cedrick Wilson may or may not even be a member of this team anymore...I can't tell.

But perhaps most worrisome, as you pointed out, is Ben's health. We can win pedestrian games with Charlie Batch, but this is Ben's team. We're 3 games away from the playoffs. IF the Steelers get in (I'm not counting our chickens) we need Ben healthy.

Let's just let Silverback play center. He does everything else on this team anyhow...

peytonloveskenny said...

Maybe he's the Troy Edwards of the line.