Pittsburgh Steelers Must Up the Tempo to Win in 2013

By Curt Popejoy
Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is a copycat league. They steal from college football. They steal from each other. It’s the way it’s always been. But as they say, when in Rome, so the trend that is sweeping the league now is the idea of high tempo offenses. This is hardly a new concept, but it’s coming into favor much more in the past could of years. And so, I started to think about where this offensive philosophy is going and could the Pittsburgh Steelers run it? Or even should they?

My answer to these questions is yes. The point of a rhythmic, up tempo offense is to create fatigue and uncertainty in the opposing defense. By running plays quickly, adjusting formations using the same personnel packages means the playbook stays wide open, but the defense cannot make substitutions to account for it. It often times forces defenses to commit to either a base defense, which can be thrown on, or a nickel/dime base set, that gives the offense an advantage in the run game.

Last season, the Steelers played what could be described as ball control football, even though new offensive coordinator Todd Haley was supposed to bring a much more upbeat and high powered offense. They won the time of possession battle by around five minutes, and ended up second in the league. But to contrast that, they were No. 13 in number of plays per game with just under 64.

I personally don’t like this disparity. I want to see Haley and the rest of the Steelers offensive staff put together an offense that makes better use of the talent on this team. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Markus Wheaton are so dynamic, it is just a matter of getting them the football. The offensive set I’d like to see the Steelers work out of–three WR, one TE and one RB–would offer tremendous flexibility for an uptempo offense.

Players like Wheaton and Brown can work in on jet sweeps and screens, essentially extending the run game. Tight end Heath Miller can stay in tight to run block or work in the slot to create lanes for the Steelers running backs to run through. And you can bet quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would look forward to working out of the shotgun, seeing less pressure and being able to get the ball to his weapons and let them make plays.

Sets like this, paired with a faster tempo, would also benefit a young and athletic offensive line. This line isn’t built to line up and pound the football down the throats of an opposing defense, especially some of the big physical units in the NFL. A quick hitting, high speed offense seems to play into the skill sets of the majority of players on this offense, and if the Steelers want to win in 2013, changes have to happen.


Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft, and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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