Steelers fans have been hearing for months about how their team’s offense will be a vastly different one in 2021. After relying way too much on Ben Roethlisberger’s right arm last season, the Steelers are determined to have a more balanced attack this year after finishing 32nd in the league in rushing last season.
While Pittsburgh’s offense will be different under first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada, it will still cater to Roethlisberger, the team’s starting quarterback since 2004.
“The quarterback is the focal point and it’s the greatest position in all of sport, in my opinion,” Canada said this week, via Ed Bouchette of The Athletic. “We’re going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it. … Matchups are how you win football games. Ben, it starts with the quarterback. What does he do well? What does he like? What does he see? What is good to his eye in the passing game? And then we build off of that. That’s what we’re going to do. His voice, his vision what he sees is what we’re going to do.”
While Roethlisberger will have an input in the game plan, he will be asked to do things that aren’t necessarily his preference. For example, the Steelers are expected to run more plays under center, whereas Roethlisberger prefers to operate out of the shotgun. There will also be more play action this season in order to keep defenses off-balance.
Canada lauded Roethlisberger’s adjustment to the offense’s new terminology. As far as Roethlisberger’s skillset entering his 18th season, Canada said he doesn’t have any reservations as far as Big Ben being able to do the things he will be expected to do within the offense. Roethlisberger will be aided by the return of each of his top receivers last season. The Steelers further added to their receiving corps with the acquisition of rookie Pat Freiermuth, the second tight end selected in the 2021 draft.
Canada echoed what has become the party line in Pittsburgh this offseason as it relates to having a better rushing game. The Steelers will undoubtedly utilize the skillset of running back Najee Harris, who will try to succeed behind an offensive line that has had to swat away doubters like cicadas invading a picnic.
“Honestly that’s the talk not just in our room but across the building and across the NFL,” said center/guard BJ Finney, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Everybody is like, ‘What’s the Steelers’ run game going to look like?’ We know we have to come out with an edge and be nasty about it. We have to reassert the run game and get back to what Pittsburgh is known for — three yards at a time and that dust cloud, as Jerome Bettis would say. When the dust settles that ball is moving forward. We take pride it in. We’re hungry. We know we have something to prove, and we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, so we want to do it.”
One thing that is certain is that the unit will strive to be significantly more balanced in 2021. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Steelers will employ a balanced attack every Sunday. If something is working, the Steelers won’t change things up for the sake of changing. But if a change does need to be made, the Steelers feel that they will have the offense and the personnel to make the necessary changes.
“Mr. Rooney has sent out a very clear directive to Mr. Colbert, to coach Tomlin and then to me,” Canada said. “We want to be able to run the ball when we have to run it. That doesn’t mean we’re going to run the ball for X amount of yards in a game, all that matters here is winning.
“Our charge is to win the Super Bowl, and that’s it. … Every year you’re trying to create a system to put your players in position to make plays, and to run the football certainly we’ll use play action as part of that. But that’s not the only focal point we have. We’re going to run the ball when we have to run it, and we’re going to throw it when we have to throw it. After that, we’re going to do everything we can to get our best players — and we have a lot of really really good ones — in position to make the plays their talents direct us to.”