Now that OTAs have wrapped up, we’re beginning to get an idea what the offense will be for the Steelers in 2021.
And perhaps offensive tackle Chuks Okorafor summed it up best Thursday when asked what the difference will be this year from last when it comes to the offensive line play.
“This year it’s more getting downfield,” Okorafor said. “Last year, we kind of shuffled and held people – not held people – but now it’s attack, attack, attack.”
That should only help Ben Roethlisberger.
First, Roethlisberger looks great. Sure, it’s the offseason. But he admitted last week he got worn down late last season after working so hard on his rehab to come back from elbow surgery.
He’s been able to take a much more measured approach to this offseason than he did a year ago. That should pay dividends later this year.
The Steelers had become a finesse offensive line over the second half of the past decade. But that was understandable. They were built to pass block for Roethlisberger, and Le’Veon Bell didn’t need linemen driving off the ball. Bell was so patient that the idea was to set screens for him and let him pick where he wanted to cut on a given play.
It worked great for Bell. It has worked great for Roethlisberger, who was sacked a league-low 13 times last season.
But with new starters at left tackle, left guard and center, it’s a good time to change things. Let the offensive linemen attack instead of catch rushers.
And with a power running back in Najee Harris, it should be a nice fit.
The Steelers might be an under-the-radar team now. But we’ll see if that’s still the case in October. Teams that play solid defense and run the ball effectively tend to do pretty well.
It’s not giving away any trade secrets that the Steelers are going to a more motion-based college-style offense.
By now, you’ve heard multiple players talking about it. And you’ve also likely seen the video clips of the Steelers practicing RPO handoffs.
But power running never goes out of style.
Much like the offensive line, the Steelers are looking for Harris to deliver blows rather than take them.
Forget what all of the analytics nerds say about selecting a running back in the first round. Harris was the right player at the right time for this team.
n Two months ago, it was a foregone conclusion the Pirates would select either Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker, a pair of Vanderbilt pitchers, with the first pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
Now, that’s not necessarily the case.
High school shortstops Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar and Kahlil Watson are said to be pushing hard for the top spot.
It comes down to what the Pirates value more. Leiter and Rocker both have top-of-the-rotation stuff. But they’re still pitchers. They play one of every five games.
The position players certainly give you more bang for the buck.
But the bottom line is that there is no clear-cut pick at the top spot, which stinks for the Pirates. This will be general manager Ben Cherington’s first big decision. And it’s one he has to get right, though there’s no obvious pick.
n It’s great news for the area that the Pony World Series will be held again this year after we didn’t have it in 2020 because of the pandemic.
And the Washington County team this year has the potential to be represented by kids from six school districts – Washington, Trinity, McGuffey, Chartiers-Houston, Canon-McMillan and Bentworth.
The Founders League has claimed the area that formerly belonged to the Vesta League, which no longer sanctions its teams. That means kids from those areas would be eligible for the World Series team, provided they participate in Washington Youth Baseball by their 12-year-old year.
Also next year, Fort Cherry can become a full-fledged member of the Founders League, from which the World Series team is selected. Fort Cherry was part of the league this year as a provisional member.
The team that represents Washington County in the world series is more of a county team than ever before. And it should be one that makes the area proud.