Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Many Positive Changes Adjustments Big and Small Key Turnabout

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Many Positive Changes Adjustments Big and Small Key Turnabout

Article excerpt

Credit the defense for helping send the Steelers to the second round of the playoffs, as it reinvented itself over this eight-game win streak.

Their offense has gone through a transformation as well, only not with the kind of personnel changes they made on defense but with a change in philosophy.

The offense switched from finesse to power football, from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as their center of attention to running back Le'Veon Bell as the straw that stirs the drink.

It all began after their 35-30 loss at home against the Dallas Cowboys, a fourth loss in a row that dropped the Steelers record to 4-5. Roethlisberger threw for 408 yards in that game and Bell ran for just 57.

At that point, Roethlisberger averaged 294.6 yards passing per game. After he made his 2016 debut with 144 yards rushing in the fourth game of the season against Kansas City, Bell averaged just 57.8 yards over the next five games, four of them losses.

It was time for a change, and Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin made it. Instead of trying to turn Bell into a wide receiver, they began handing him the football. The results were fewer pass receptions for the dynamic halfback and many more rushing yards.

In the eight wins since the loss against Dallas, Bell averaged 143.1 yards rushing per game or 85 more on average than the previous five games. His receptions dipped from an average of 8 per game through the Dallas game to 4.5 since then. And Roethlisberger has averaged 57 fewer yards passing per game than he did through the loss against the Cowboys.

Roethlisberger remained upright more, too. He was sacked 14 times through his first eight games, just four over the past seven.

Tomlin called it, "A better understanding of who and what we are, evolving to present circumstances and gaining traction in that evolution."

The changes at the No. 2 receiver forced some of the changes. They lost Martavis Bryant for the season due to suspension, Markus Wheaton for most of the season to injury, and Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey for large chunks of the season with injuries. …

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