Thinking big

The rankings No. 28 in the NFL in total offense, No. 28 in passing yards per game, No. 25 in yards per play and No. 21 in yards per passing attempt are reflective of the big plays the Steelers haven't been making.

More is expected, and more is necessary in offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner's estimation.

"It makes you go the long, hard way," he said regarding what has to happen when big plays are absent from an attack. "If you want to be proud of something, then I would say I'd be very proud if you can consistently take 10-, 12-play drives and score, that's just awful hard to do. Defenses get paid well and they get coached well and that just doesn't always happen.

"Chunks are nice, they help."

"Chunks" or "chunk plays" offensive snaps that cover a bunch of yards all at once are attainable, and have been, Fichtner believes.

The offense will be out to produce them with more regularity, beginning Monday night against Miami.

"I think we're close," Fichtner continued. "They've come, they just haven't come consistently enough. I don't know that it's by design, you just gotta take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. I think we have guys who can make plays.

"I'm always hunting ways to get the ball in JuJu's hands (wide receiver Smith-Schuster). You see young No. 18 (wide receiver Diontae Johnson) coming on. (Wide receiver) James (Washington) is coming back to us this week, it's exciting. I look forward to that."

Quarterback Mason Rudolph perceives more big plays as imminent.

"You gotta have balance," he said. "Any offense, there's going to be days where there's chances, opportunities to push the ball down the field. And then there's opportunities where you have to really take what the defense gives you.

"That's been a point of emphasis for us. We have a lot of guys that can go deep and can make those plays for us. They've made those plays for us in practice the last couple weeks and we feel really comfortable about where we are moving forward in that area. You're going to see a lot more explosion and guys stretching the field."

The Steelers rushed for a season-high 124 yards in their most recent outing, a 24-17 victory over the Chargers on Oct. 13 in Los Angeles.

It was the first time they had surpassed 100 yards on the ground this season.

Tight end Vance McDonald is among those who considers establishing the running game essential to opening up the down-the-field passing game.

"Honestly, it starts with the run game," he said. "Against the Chargers we ran the ball well and it had been a while since we had done that, and that just puts everything together.

"We have to rely on our front guys, like we talk about, and actually go in and do it in the game, and then things usually roll from there."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 8 matchup against the Miami Dolphins