Entering yesterday’s game against the Lions, the Steelers were only one of two teams that had not scored on an opening possession in any of their games during the 2013 regular season. During their 3-6 start, Pittsburgh managed to punt the ball away five times and turn it over four times on their opening possessions, and the offense looked like they were in need of a spark.
Thankfully for them, Todd Haley put the ball in his hands of his Pro Bowl signal-caller and essentially told him to rock and fire.
Ben Roethlisberger led a no-huddle and hurry-up attack for the Steelers right out of the gate against Detroit, and the strategy reaped the same types of positive results which it had so many times in the past for “Big Ben.”
On their first drive, Pittsburgh took over at their own 32-yard line after the Lions turned the ball over on downs and Roethlisberger went to work. The Steelers’ signal-caller went 5/5 on the drive, passed for 61 yards, converted two third-and-longs (3rd & 8 and 3rd & 11), and capped off the drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown which Brown made two nifty moves to turn the eight yard gain into a score.
On the following drive, Roethlisberger made quick work of Detroit’s secondary once again. After an incomplete pass to Emmanuel Sanders on 2nd and 7 at his own 40-yard line, “Big Ben” hooked up with Brown for a 13-yard gain which moved the chains. On the next play, Pittsburgh’s signal-caller stepped up in the pocket after some pressure, kept his eyes downfield, and found a streaking Brown in the middle of the field. The NFL-leader in receptions dashed towards the end zone for the 47=yard touchdown, and Pittsburgh was up 14-0 with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.
Starting “hot” in the first quarter and early in games has been an issue for Pittsburgh all season long. In fact, the Steelers had scored a combined 19 points total during the first quarters of their 3-6 start entering Sunday’s game against Detroit!
It was also fantastic to see the no-huddle and hurry-up utilized early in yesterday’s game, and it definitely surprised the Lions’ defense as well. Although the 14-0 lead evaporated during the second quarter, Pittsburgh’s offense showed a potency in the first quarter which we had not seen at all this fall. They exploited matchup weaknesses in Detroit’s secondary, and largely scrapped the run so they could attack them with their best play-makers.
At least to me, keeping opposing defenses on their toes and gobbling up chunks of yardage at will should be something that the Steelers’ offensive players do early in games. It is something they save for the final two minutes of each half or when they are trailing by large margins.
My hope is that Pittsburgh’s offense can begin to attack their opposition early and often during their final six games, because the unit showed a tremendous amount of potential on Sunday against the Lions. Providing their defense with early leads can make that unit more aggressive, and the more aggressiveness put on display by the defense could lead to more takeaways and scoring chances for the offense during the games.
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