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Can Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler Maintain Their Record Setting Pace?
Pittsburgh Steelers 2014
Six touchdown passes two weeks in a row
Two weeks ago in a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Ben Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 500 or more yards in a game twice in his career. In that game against the Colts, and the Steelers week nine matchup with the Ravens featured a six touchdown pass attack from the Steelers quarterback. This also set an all time NFL mark, making Ben Roethlisberger the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for six touchdowns in back to back games. With the Steelers offense setting records at the quarterback position recently, there are various factors that have contributed to the Steelers success that goes back as far as their week seven matchup with the Texans. While it is unlikely that Ben Roethlisberger will continue to throw for six touchdowns every game the rest of the season, this recent run may have helped to establish the Steelers among the NFL's elite offensive units. Great timing between Roethlisberger and his receivers has been the most noteworthy difference between what the Steelers are showing now and what they showed in week six against the Browns. Adding another talented receiver into the Steelers passing game mix has also been a huge factor in turning red zone possessions into touchdowns, when in previous years the Steelers did not convert at such an efficient rate.
Can the Steelers' offense join the NFL's elite?
The Steelers have established a blueprint the past three weeks for offensive success throughout the rest of 2014 and beyond. The Steelers have made offense look easy in the NFL the past three weeks mostly due to their superior athleticism on the perimeter. However this is not something that the great defensive minds in the NFL are unable to adjust to, by developing game plans to take away what they are doing best. Based on what the Steelers have done so far in the past three weeks, when compared to their effort where their offense seemed to be in disarray against the Browns, it appears that a significant amount of work has been put in to get everyone on the same page. The comments by Emmanuel Sanders before the season, about the leadership of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, seem to have played a motivational role in getting the Steelers passing attack to perform to their potential. Since the Steelers have the athletes and they have proved they can put in the work with their quarterback to perform at a high level, there is no reason to believe they will not be able to put in the work necessary to make the adjustments when they become necessary. How quickly the Steelers are able to make those adjustments, will determine how consistent and how great the offense can be for Pittsburgh over a full season.
How are the Steelers converting so many red zone opportunities?
In recent years, Heath Miller was the only big target that the Steelers had on the field consistently for red zone appearances. This has changed recently though with the Steelers starting to feature rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant. At 6 feet and four inches tall, Martavis Bryant has proven to be a reliable red zone threat in the first three games that he has been on the Steelers active roster this season. Through six games of the 2014 season, Bryant had not found his way onto the Steelers active roster, but after Markus Wheaton had a rough game in week six against the Browns, the Steelers decided to give the rookie his first opportunity. Through three games played with the Steelers so far, Martavis Bryant has ten catches, five of which have gone for touchdowns. With space being so limited in the red zone, play makers on the outside like Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton have less of an opportunity to run under the football to make a play. This is where the height and leaping ability of Martavis Bryant becomes so important, as Ben Roethlisberger can now throw it higher in the red zone and still have the passes be accurate enough for completions to the big rookie wide receiver. With the Steelers now having so many options to throw the ball to inside the opponents 20 yard line, teams are unable to simply roll coverage to the side of the Steelers best option. With the red zone weapons that Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers currently have, Ben is throwing touchdown passes at a record pace. He will continue to do so until the Steelers' opponents find a way to limit this success and force the Steelers to try something else in the red zone.
Can the Steelers maintain this record setting pace?
The reality of the situation is that Ben Roethlisberger will not be throwing six touchdown passes every game for the rest of the season. This does not mean the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger will not continue to break NFL records though. In one game this season, Ben Roethlisberger has failed to throw a touchdown pass, but with the current state of the Steelers' offense, that does not look like an occurrence that will happen again very soon. The consecutive games streak with a touchdown pass is a record that is long way away for Ben Roethlisberger though, as his current streak sits only at seven games. The past two weeks have been record breaking performances, but this does not mean that Ben Roethlisberger will throw eight touchdown passes in one game this season to break the all time single game record for touchdown passes thrown. As for the pace that the Steelers have been on the past two games, this is one the best moments in the Steelers' season. The identity of this Steelers team is not formed by the last two games, but rather their whole body of work so far on the season. The Steelers offense is putting together a great season, but even with the weapons they have, their pace from the last two games is not likely to be maintained over the next seven.