Ready or not, Steelers to unveil new offensive look at season opener against Bills
Ben Roethlisberger has responded in the affirmative each time when asked this week if he’s nervous or excited about what lies ahead for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense on Sunday in Buffalo.
Matt Canada, on the other hand, called him just another day at the office.
Regardless of the perspective of a veteran quarterback in his early 18se season or an offensive coordinator calling games for the first time at the NFL level, the Steelers won’t have to wait much longer to see if the fruits of their offseason labor will be realized in a new attack to be unveiled in the opening. of the season.
“Anxious, excited, nervous,” Roethlisberger said. “We hold ourselves to high expectations and high standards. So I think as players you have to (be like that). I’m sure the coaches are a bit nervous and anxious as well.
While Canada has any apprehension about the offense it will present to a full house at Highmark Stadium, it has not shown it externally this week.
“Glad to see our guys play,” was all Canada would allow when it comes to their emotions. “Like any first game of the season, it’s exciting to let your guys play, to see where you really are against someone at full speed.”
Since the Steelers left the playoffs in January with a surprise first-round loss at home to the Cleveland Browns, the offense has undergone huge changes.
• Canada has been promoted to quarterbacks to replace Randy Fichtner, whose contract has not been renewed after three seasons.
• Adrian Klemm was promoted to offensive line coach, replacing Shaun Sarrett, after the Steelers finished last in the NFL on rushing, averaging 84.4 yards per game, including 3.6 yards per attempt. In a less publicized move, Alfredo Roberts was hired as the tight ends coach, replacing retiree James Daniel.
• The offensive line, which is expected to make more zonal blocks this year, has only one remaining starter from its position in 2020: right tackle Chuks Okorafor, who returned to his former position just two years ago. weeks due to Zach Banner’s extended recovery. ACL surgery.
• Four rookies will start in attack or have significant playing time. This includes two members of the offensive line – left tackle Dan Moore and center Kendrick Green – first-round pick Najee Harris running back and second-round Pat Freiermuth, who is listed as a close-end co-starter. .
“I’m excited about what they’re going to offer us this weekend, but at the same time I think it’s reasonable to expect these guys to find their place and improve continuously and quickly over the course of of this trip, ”said coach Mike. said Tomlin. “I think that’s what comes with this time of year. There is always an element of the unknown that heightens your awareness and gives you that tingle.
It was more of a headache for the Steelers in the 2020 season. Building an 11-0 start, the offense averaged 29.6 points and scored at least 24 points in each of the first 10 games. In the last six games, the Steelers have averaged 19.6 points and have only passed 24 once. That’s one of the reasons they made it to the playoffs with four losses in five games.
The immediate message from team president Art Rooney II was that the Steelers needed to run the ball more frequently – and more efficiently. The tenure was passed from Rooney to general manager Kevin Colbert to Tomlin to his assistants and players.
“We’re going to put them in the best possible position to make plays,” Canada said. “We’re not backing down from the four rookies. We are not afraid of some new wrinkles. We are not afraid of the great team we started with. There will be highs and lows in every game of every season. I have confidence in the work we have done.
The question is whether the Steelers have done enough in the preseason. Roethlisberger has only made three series, although he did get a perfect passer rating in his abbreviated appearance in Week 3. The line as it is currently constructed did not get any game snap while Banner, Okorafor, and goalie Kevin Dotson faced various ailments.
This could be problematic for an offense that has new terminology and wrinkles. Even Roethlisberger admitted to having trouble grasping all of the concepts that include an up-tempo style with a lot of pre-engagement movement.
“We’re kind of going to have to learn on the fly, all of us,” Roethlisberger said. “Learn about each other. It may not be soon enough, and we must also accept that fact. At the end of the day, we just have to do what we have to do to win a football game. ”
And that’s no small feat considering the Bills finished 13-3 a year ago and advanced to the AFC Championship game.
“Obviously, if we are sitting here next week and everything has gone well, we will be happy,” Canada said. “If not, we’ll always be ready to go and be positive about what we’re going to do. We will always believe that we can find a way to do it. I think we have a good plan and I think our guys spent a lot of time on it. But the same goes for everyone in the league.