ALL EYES ARE ON STEELERS ROOKIE RUNNING BACK NAJEE HARRIS… (Photo by Courier photographer Brian Cook Sr.)
by Brandon Walker, For New Pittsburgh Courier
When I observed the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 26-17 home loss to the Las Vegas Raiders this past Sunday, one thing was made clear: The Steelers lack an identity on offense. For the past few years, they relied on Ben Roethlisberger throwing his way to wins and using the running game as an accessory to the pass. Chase Claypool, while talented and showed potential last season, isn’t the game-breaking difference-maker that the Steelers thought they had, at least not yet, in my opinion. It is time for Steeler Nation to realize that Ben is way past his prime and although he won’t admit it, his body language on the sidelines suggests that he is a burned-out quarterback who is content with his legacy, who is going through the motions and trying to hang on for one more nice payday.
However, that doesn’t mean that Ben and this offense cannot be effective this season. The Steelers drafted a 230-pound running back that can run with speed, power, and can catch the ball out of the backfield in Najee Harris. Why would you only give him only 10 carries? I know the whole town has talked about the offensive line but the Steelers’ offensive line has a better chance of success when they are doing more run-blocking for a bulldozer of a running back and imposing their will on their opponents.
Ask any offensive lineman from Pop Warner to the NFL…the best thing for an offensive lineman’s confidence is to move another man from point A to point B against their will, and that helps in pass protection and helps wear down defenses throughout the game in the fourth quarter when it’s time to run the four-minute offense. That’s when the running game will be most effective. You know the state of the offense is bad when head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t trust his offense on a 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter down by one score, and decides to punt the ball back to Las Vegas, knowing his defense was already gassed.
When Roethlisberger throws the ball 40 times behind a young offensive line that struggles in pass protection, it results in miscommunication with young receivers such as Diontae Johnson stopping on a route that resulted in an interception in the second quarter, drops that stop drives, and a lack of balance on offense. That leaves the defense to be on the field for 34 minutes, 22 seconds and giving up five plays of over 15 yards in the second half.
Jon Gruden, head coach of the Raiders, balanced his offense in this past Sunday’s game although they only mustered 39 yards on the ground. That’s because they ran the ball 25 times without having Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs at their disposal. Derek Carr threw for 382 yards and got explosive plays all afternoon, but the play that got them into field goal range was a 13-yard run through the right guard by Payton Barber.
In conclusion, the Steelers offense needs to be centered around Harris and his skill set if they want to get this season on track.
As for the defense, they gave up a lot of chunk plays when T.J. Watt and Tyson Alualu left the game. Joe Haden and Devin Bush were already inactive due to groin injuries. Overall, the defense will be fine throughout the season as they get healthy. The bottom line is the Steelers lost to the better team on Sept. 19 and they need to find balance on offense for them to win close games because there will be a lot of toss-up games on their schedule in regards to talent level.