Craig Wolfley, a former Steelers offensive lineman and member of the Steelers Radio Network, shared his thoughts on what he likes about the Steelers at the bye week and one thing that can't happen moving forward.
Team on the run: Running back Le'Veon Bell is coming off a career game, rushing for 204 yards against the Tennessee Titans. Wolfley loves the way the ground game has come to life, and knows that it's a huge part of the offense.
"The running game has really come around, especially based off of the Titans game," said Wolfley. "This has been the solid foundation of the offense. Everyone expected the offense to lead coming out of training camp. For years this has been a defense first based franchise. It was the defense that was always the bedrock and foundation of the franchise. The offense has been ever evolving so there was anticipation that the offense would keep things going until the defense got a little further along this year.
"After the first half of the opener against Cleveland, when they put up 24 points, there were a lot of expectations. All of a sudden it went into hibernation. It's been an up and down thing. But what has been the bedrock of it is the running game is back in Pittsburgh and Le'Veon Bell has been doing a magnificent job."
Line them up: Without a strong offensive line, the ground game wouldn't be going anywhere. The combination of Maurkice Pouncey, Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert has been the difference maker.
"I take it back to an offensive line that last year performed without the best center in football," said Wolfley. "You had those five guys pretty much stay together and become tight knit and complementary to each other. Then you bring back Maurkice Pouncey, the best center in football, and put him in that group. And then you hire a Hall of Famer in Mike Munchak as the offensive line coach and you have the makings for something really special.
"You add to that maybe the most diverse running back in the NFL in Le'Veon Bell who is a combination of Jamaal Charles and Marshall Faulk in his running and pass catching and route running. You have something now where you can walk into any stadium in the NFL and you can pass the ball if you need to or run the ball if you need to. The two games prior to Tennessee what the team was missing was the running game as the bedrock. The Ravens did a good job of shutting it down and New York it just didn't happen. This running game has been the first step in a solid foundation for the offense."
Air it out: It's not just about the ground game, though. Wolfley likes the direction the passing game is headed in as well and the way the team has been using their wide receivers.
Photos from Steelers' practice during the bye week.
"I like the evolution of the passing game," said Wolfley. "I like how Todd Haley has broken his wide receivers down into two groups. There has been a big group, and then a smaller unit, and mixed it up. He has a solid foundation where they are running a lot of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller and you add Le'Veon Bell to that you can empty the backfield and get Bell matched up with linebackers in the passing game. Ben Roethlisberger has been great getting the ball out fast. And when he hasn't you go through rough passages. But the bottom line is it's been spectacularly productive to see what a franchise quarterback can do. The offense is really coming around, those are the two things I really like."
Moving forward: Staying with the offense, Wolfley said the one thing they need to do is make sure they keep moving forward in a positive manner.
"The concern would be the offense going back into hibernation," said Wolfley. "The biggest pothole is forgetting what got them where they are right now and the price they paid to get there. The old saying 'If you fail to understand what you have been through, you are doomed to repeat it.' The offense has to continue to be on the uptake. They have to be able to be conservatively capable of posting 28-35 points to win out. The defense has to do their job and put the offense in position to win. It's about the team working together, and both sides of the ball and special teams being on the uptake."