ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The problems with the Steelers offense have been evident at least for the entire month of December.
In the 2020 season’s fourth month, the Steelers have been largely unable to run the ball, and the team’s short-passing game directed by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered from a lack of efficiency.
The Steelers have spent consecutive weeks working through those issues after below-average offensive performances against Baltimore on Dec. 2 and Washington on Dec. 7, but Sunday night in Buffalo, those familiar issues returned.
Even with the return of starting running back James Conner, the Steelers were unable to run the ball, with Conner finishing with 18 yards on 10 carries.
While the Steelers receivers largely did a better job of holding onto the football than they had in the previous two games, it was a lack of ability to convert on third down that prevented the offense from sustaining drives and a pair of Roethlisberger interceptions turned the tide of the game.
What’s wrong continues to be obvious. How the Steelers can fix it is not.
“If I had that answer, we wouldn’t be tripped up, and we wouldn’t be playing so poorly on offense,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “We need to look in the mirror, and it starts with me. I need to play better football because the ball is in my hands every single play. When it’s in my hands, I need to make the best decision. Right now, I’m not playing good enough football to win.”
The Steelers have lost two straight after starting their season 11-0, and after a sojourn to Cincinnati in Week 15, will close their schedule with playoff-bound teams in Indianapolis and Cleveland before the postseason.
That’s not a long time or an easy road to repair those problems, and Roethlisberger admitted that it’s not a sure thing that the Steelers will do so.
“I hope so,” he said. “If I don’t play good enough football, then I need to hang it up. I still feel like I can do enough things to help this team win football games. I’m going to do everything I can to get us back on track.”
When head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if one week is enough time to get the Pittsburgh offense back on track, he was succinct: “yes.”
It certainly is. But whether they’ll be able to is the question that might define the rest of the Steelers’ season.