Stopping the Steelers offense is 'nearly impossible'
The Steelers finished the 2014 season with the second-best offense in the NFL. While Le'Veon Bell will sit out the first three games of 2015 due to suspension, many expect Ben Roethlisberger and company to continue firing on all cylinders.
In fact, Bell's suspension might be the only thing to slow down the Steelers' offense, according to the writers that cover the AFC North over at ESPN.com. How can defenses contain the trio of Roethlisberger, Bell, and Antonio Brown?
Coley Harvey, Bengals: Prayer could help. Beyond that, opposing defenses would be best served focusing on shutting down Bell first and foremost. If they can shut down the run and make the Steelers one-dimensional, then maybe they have a chance to slow the entire offense. For this answer, I think back to last year’s regular-season finale between the Bengals and Steelers. Until A.J. Green fumbled to give the Steelers the ball ahead of a clutch, late touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Brown, the Bengals were right in the ballgame. They were in it because they were stopping the run. Sure, Bell left the game in the third quarter because of a knee injury that resulted from a low tackle by Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson, but the fact was he gained only 20 yards on eight rushes. The Bengals were making the Steelers one-dimensional. Again, though, in the end, it was that dimension that ultimately won the game thanks to a perfectly placed pass to Brown that Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick played as well as a defender could. So that’s why the only real solution to combat Pittsburgh’s trio is to pray.
Jamison Hensley, Ravens: The key is putting them in predictable passing situations by focusing on shutting down the run and then putting pressure on Roethlisberger. The Ravens have done a good job at doing this, which is why they’ve held the Steelers to 20 points or fewer in three of the four meetings where Pittsburgh has had Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell. Since 2011, Roethlisberger has thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions against the Ravens. When you remove that six-touchdown performance against a Jimmy Smith-less defense, he has six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Brown also has been held in check with three 100-yard games and one touchdown in 11 meetings with Baltimore. Bell’s rushing totals have decreased in each of his past four games against the Ravens. This terrific trio has been tepid against Baltimore.
Pat McManamon, Browns: Hope to outscore them. It’s not a joke. Stopping all three of these guys is next to impossible, as they showed last season when Roethlisberger threw for 4,952 yards, Bell ran for 1,361 and Brown caught for 1,698. Conceivably, Roethlisberger could be better this season given the late-season development of Martavis Bryant and the drafting of Sammie Coates. Stopping Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell is impossible. The best that defenses can hope is to limit one or to force the Steelers to be patient and hope for a mistake.
So there ya have it -- prayer, pressure and stopping the run.