Sun, 11 Apr 2021

Protecting the passer, comebacks and Al Bundy

The Steelers
01 Mar 2021, 05:30 GMT+10

Mike Prisuta

The overall ranking of 24th (tied) according to the NFL's yards-per-game standard, including a dead-last standing in rushing, doesn't quite do the Steelers' offense justice.

The goal will be to make the offense better in 2021, as it will every aspect of the Steelers' operation.

But there were times when what the Steelers did while in possession of the ball last season was a revelation.

Following is a look back at some of the offense's most memorable accomplishments in the 2020 regular season:

Lighting Up Scoreboards

The run to a franchise-record 11-0 start to a season included the Steelers scoring at least 24 points in the season's first 10 games. Although there were a couple of defensive/special teams scores sprinkled in, the Steelers scored 299 points through the first 10 games and averaged 29.9 points per game, including 39 against Philadelphia, 38 against Cleveland and 36 against Cincinnati. Ultimately, it was a pace the Steelers couldn't maintain. But it was fun while it lasted.

Eruption Against Indy

After failing to find the end zone on four consecutive cracks from the Indianapolis 2-yard line or closer, the Steelers trailed the Colts, 24-7, with 5:01 left in the third quarter on Dec. 27 at Heinz Field. But the next three Steelers' possessions produced three touchdowns in succession for a 28-24 lead with 7:38 left in regulation. The touchdowns occurred in a span of 10:38 that stunned the Colts and ultimately clinched the AFC North Division championship for the Steelers. They included a quick strike (a 39-yard, first-down pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Diontae Johnson), a five-play, 74-yard drive in 1:51 and a 10-play, 84-yard march in 4:28 that finished the job. Fireworks in December, and hats and T-shirts to commemorate the occasion.

Coming From Behind

The Steelers won four games in which they had trailed at halftime (21-17 on Sep. 27 against Houston, 17-7 on Nov. 1 at Baltimore, 13-9 on Nov. 8 at Dallas, and 21-7 on Dec. 27 against Indianapolis). The deficit in Dallas grew to 19-9 entering the fourth quarter, which made the eventual 24-19 win over the Cowboys one of three games in which the Steelers prevailed despite trailing by 10 points or more in the second half. It was also one of four in which they'd faced a double-digit deficit at some point (the Steelers trailed the Texans 14-3 in the second quarter) and still achieved victory. It ain't over until it's over, at least it wasn't in 2020.

Protecting the Passer

The Steelers surrendered a league-low 14 sacks, seven fewer than runners-up Green Bay and Indianapolis (21 each) in that category. It was the fewest the Steelers have allowed since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. They allowed one sack or fewer in 12 games and zero sacks in six games, including five in a row from Nov. 8-Dec. 7. That five-game run set a franchise record and tied for the third-longest such streak in the NFL since 1982. Roethlisberger attempted a franchise-record 51 passes without being sacked on Dec. 2 against Baltimore. The record was broken five days later when Roethlisberger attempted 53 passes and wasn't dropped on Dec. 7 against Washington.

Chase Claypool's Al Bundy Game

Four touchdowns in one football game! Except this wasn't for Polk High in the city championship against Andrew Johnson High, it was for the Steelers against the Eagles in a 39-28 victory on Oct. 11 at Heinz Field. Claypool, a second-round rookie from Notre Dame, scored on a 2-yard run and on receptions of 32, 5 and 35 yards. He joined Jerry Butler (1979) and Harlon Hill (1954) as the only rookie wide receivers in NFL history to score four TDs in a game. Claypool also became the first Steelers player to cross the goal line four times since Roy Jefferson in 1968.

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