A Long Comment on the Steelers’ 2016 Offense
Today’s article, Setting the Bar Higher etc.elicited the following comment from the faithful Cold Old Steelers Fan:
I suspect that loses of Bryant, Bell and now. potentially, Green may be enough to cripple the Steelers goals of 5 and 30. I am also a little bit concerned about the lack of Ben the last few practices. Hopefully what ever is happening in his life can be resolved in a positive manner or that it is a just an over cautious approach by the coaching staff to keep Ben healthy.
I started to write a longer-than-usual comment, but decided it was worth an extra post. This is in part because I discovered what COSF was alluding to in re Green—that he’s thinking of retiring, according to the usual unnamed sources in the organization. Apparently Green had two concussions close together last September, and it is headaches, not the ankle, which is keeping him out of practice.
And if that is the case he should definitely retire, because there’s no sense in messing around with head injuries. Literally. He’s what, 26 or 27? Do you want to risk the rest of your life for the chance to play a few more years of football?
That said, it creates some additional angst in Steeler Nation, as reflected in COSF’s comment. Here’s what I started to write:
I’m not worried at all about Ben. I think the coaching staff is just being super cautious. If you were deciding whether Ben or his backup needs more practice, and you had seen what you’ve seen so far from Ben, I think there wouldn’t be any question. I also think that if had seen just how good Sammie Coates looked you would stop worrying about the Bryant suspension. From the sounds of things I’ll be really surprised if Bell’s suspension isn’t at least shortened.
Quite honestly my main fears are about the TE situation. I would feel worse had they not re-signed Johnson, and if DHB wasn’t such a good blocker. But they did and he is, so I think they will manage until Green is back.
Now that I realize Green may well not be back, does it change this? After all, they really didn’t know what they had in Green in terms of their own offense. He and Ben have not had a single snap together. And one thing they did know was that he was no Heath Miller in terms of blocking.
Oddly, at least according to Pro Football Focus, Heath Miller was no Heath Miller either. Although they thought he was a decent pass blocker, they rated his run blocking as well below the line. Jesse James was rated more or less the opposite. His ranking for run blocking would have been No. 15 in the league had he had enough snaps to qualify. Heath’s was 50th among TEs with enough snaps to qualify. But Heath was 18th in pass blocking, while James would have been No. 38 in that category. Green was No. 29 in run blocking and a woeful 58th in pass blocking, again among all tight ends with enough snaps to qualify.
And while I’m at it I might just as well show their rankings as receivers. Green was No. 19, Heath No. 23, and James would have ranked 35th had he played enough snaps.
So will they manage if Green doesn’t return at all? Only time will tell, of course. And of course we can never know one way or the other. But David Johnson and Darius Heyward-Bey aren’t the only guys. Roosevelt Nix showed a lot last season before he got hurt, but mainly in the traditional fullback role. But he is showing an increased comfort with receiving as well, which is impressive given that he played his whole college career as a defensive lineman. Le’Veon Bell is, as we have cause to know, just as comfortable catching the ball as running it, and DWill showed a talent for that last season as well.
This gives Todd Haley an awful lot of options. As Bob Labriola pointed out this morning on Steelers.com,
* Without Green, the depth chart at tight end is without a No. 1., which hasn’t been the case since the day before the 2005 NFL Draft. Certainly, it’s a situation that’s bound to chafe any NFL starting quarterback, but what the actual impact could end up being on this offense is up for discussion.
* There are options to be found within other units to compensate. If the opposing defense sees Ben Roethlisberger in the huddle and he’s joined by Le’Veon Bell and Roosevelt Nix, along with Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, andSammie Coates, does that indicate a run or a pass, for example?
* If the defense gets caught with too many big people on the field, Roethlisberger has five potential eligibles – and based on what I’ve seen up here daily, Nix is a very reliable option on everything from circle-routes to rub-routes to screens. Go small on defense, and Bell behind that offensive line and a lead blocker can create a whole other set of problems.
Given that Labriola admittedly “lives in his fears” this is a pretty optimistic take. And if he is optimistic, does it make sense for the rest of us to worry? I for one am not going to.
This was supposed to be a quick post, so I’m going to quit now. We’ll see what we see tonight, and talk in the morning…