The Pittsburgh Steelers come in at No. 20 on Fox Sports' NFL preseason rankings. And when the network's roundtable experts discuss the Steelers, they still express concern about the relationship between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, even as the pair enters its third year together.
Reporter Jay Glazer said: “Usually with Ben, the play doesn't start until you hit him. … Haley wants to keep him in too much of a box.”
If Haley and the Steelers want to make Roethlisberger into more of a pocket passer as he gets older, analyst Donovan McNabb said, a lot will depend on improving Pittsburgh's offensive live for better protection of their quarterback.
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On that point, everyone seemed in agreement that the line will be better this season because of the arrival of Mike Munchak as offensive line coach. His presence, along with LeGarrette Blount joining second-year Le'Veon Bell at running back, can only mean good things for the Steelers offense.
“That will get them back to the old-school running Pittsburgh Steelers when they had Jerome Bettis,” roundtabler Randy Moss said.
If they can run the ball, so much better for when it comes time to pass. And that will make everything hunky-dory with Roethlisberger and Haley, analyst Joel Klatt said.
“If it's easier to throw the football, the quarterback-OC relationship is usually better,” Klatt said.
The panelists did say the Steelers' age on defense – even while they add younger players – remains a possible problem, and McNabb said he expects them to miss Ryan Clark – allowed to leave via free agency – who had worked so well as the safety combination with Troy Polamalu.
In the end, they were split on whether Pittsburgh could emerge from the tough AFC North into the postseason, but, as McNabb said, “Anytime you have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, you have a chance.”