The Steelers last two victories have followed an extremely similar blueprint. After falling behind early, the Steelers offense has forged a comeback while the defense tightened for the team to take a lead.
Then, unable to run the clock out, the team has had to rely on its defense to secure victory in the final minutes. Each time, it took two such late-game stops by the defense to secure the win.
But despite the blueprint’s success as the team has improved to 8-0 to start the 2020 season, it’s not one they’re trying to follow. The slow starts on both sides of the ball are concerning.
“We’ve got a group that sticks together, a group that is mentally tough and able to persevere,” head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game. “I’m thankful for that, but obviously, we can’t keep having these conversations every week. We’ll be doing it with an L if we’re not careful.”
Ben Roethlisberger put the onus on himself, saying that he needs to do more early in the game.
“I just need to play better,” he said. “I’m not converting the throws that I need to and I’ll take the blame for that. I need to play better in order for this team to start faster and try and get elite.”
Roethlisberger said, and there’s some truth to his statement. He threw for 24 yards in the first half against Baltimore and 111 against Dallas. In the second half, he threw for 158 against the Ravens and 195 against the Cowboys. So he’s been better in the second halves of these games.
But the bigger issue has been the that the team has started each game with an attempt to be balanced and has been unable to maintain drives while running the ball.
James Conner averaged 3.1 yards per carry at Baltimore and an awful 2.4 yards per carry at Dallas. When the Steelers’ offense has come alive in the second half of games, it’s been with Roethlisberger directing a no-huddle attack out of a four-wide receiver formation.
“We didn’t do what we wanted to do today, we didn’t control the ball,” Roethlisberger said.
While the Steelers obviously feel good about being 8-0 to start the season, they’ll probably feel better about if their next game can follow a script with a faster start and less drama at the finish.