It can’t last, can it?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Pro Football -

Of­fenses have been the mar­ketable face of the NFL for four decades, since the league ap­proved two sig­nif­i­cant rules changes in 1978 to in­crease scor­ing and ex­cite­ment.

The first was to al­low of­fen­sive line­men to ex­tend their arms and grab de­fend­ers, which helped pro­tect quar­ter­backs and gave them more time to throw. The se­cond was re­duc­ing from 10 yards to 5 yards the “chuck” rule that de­fen­sive backs could use to con­tact re­ceivers, thus giv­ing the re­ceivers more room to run free.

In 1978, only one team av­er­aged more than 24 points a game — the Dal­las Cow­boys. The fol­low­ing year, there were three, led by the Steelers (26 ppg.) As of­fenses took ad­van­tage of the rule changes, scor­ing in­creased just about ev­ery sea­son. Last year, 13 teams av­er­aged more than 24 points a game, se­cond most in a sin­gle sea­son since 1978.

That’s why any num­ber that ap­pears to fa­vor the de­fense — as Week 1 did — is con­sid­ered an anom­aly, if not a rar­ity.

“If you want to be a good of­fense, you have to be able to han­dle it,” Roeth­lis­berger said. “When we come to OTAs and mini­camp, that first day we al­ways ex­pect the de­fense to win. Al­ways. We want to win but we ex­pect them to be­cause they have more stuff they can throw at an of­fense. And if you’ve never seen it and you might not pick it up.”

That might ex­plain the num­ber of sacks in Week 1, the most on open­ing week­end since there were 81 in 2013. It might also point up the num­ber of bad of­fen­sive lines in the league. The Vikings, for ex­am­ple, were so up­set with the amount of pres­sure Brad­ford en­dured last sea­son they re­built their en­tire of­fen­sive line in the off­sea­son and will have five new starters against the Steelers.

The Steelers don’t have that prob­lem. They have re­signed ev­ery starter on what is ar­guably the best of­fen­sive line in the league. Roeth­lis­berger, who was sacked just once against the Browns, has been sacked just seven times in his past nine reg­u­lar-sea­son games.

“You can say the de­fenses are ahead [of the of­fenses] be­cause they got a lot more ro­ta­tions, they can ro­tate more play­ers,” said All-Pro cen­ter Mau­r­kice Pouncey. “The of­fen­sive line is just fullgo ev­ery sin­gle play. We’ve been that way our whole en­tire life.”

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