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Road to Dallas: Steelers Offense

Next up in our series of “Road to Dallas”, we look at some keys to the Steelers success on Offense.

The 2010 Steelers offense has been more successful than some thought possible. Many thought the Steelers wouldn’t stand a chance without Ben Roethlisberger at Quarterback during the first 4 games of the season, but they turned in a 3-1 record. From that point on they have made believers out of the doubters.  Their season statistics are not mind blowing but nonetheless, effective:

Overall Offense – 14th
Passing Offense – 14th
Rushing Offense – 11th

Not necessarily stellar numbers when you think about the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl XLV, but  it has been efficient when needed. The Steelers are a team that always relies on the “team” concept to win football game. They don’t build a game plan, on any side of the ball, around just 1 player or unit. All 3 work together and if one has a sub par performance, the other 2 generally pick up the slack and help pull out the win. Is it always perfect? No, but a 12-4 record, division champions, and now conference champions definitely suggests that they know what they’re doing.

In next weekends big game, the Steeler offense I believe has got to establish the run (a revelation, yes I know). The Packers are 18th in the NFL in rush defense, and even though they run a similar 34 scheme like Pittsburgh does, you can run on them.  Overall Green Bay is a top 5 defense, but the strength of their team clearly is in their pass defense.  Taking nothing away from stars like Clay Matthews or B.J. Raji of course, both of whom are as good as it gets, but the Steelers can and will need to establish the run.  Arians and Roethlisberger won’t be afraid to attack with the passing game, you can’t be in today’s NFL, but getting Mendenhall & Redman going will be key to staying balanced.  The Steeler offensive line is no stranger to playing against a zone blitz scheme, and who better to give them last minute pointers than Hall of Fame inductee Dick Lebeau and his group. If you make yourself one dimensional or allow yourself to become as such, you are at a distinct disadvantage, especially late in the game.

Rashard Mendenhall carried the ball 324 times in 2010 for 1,273 yds. and 13 TD’s, respectable in any conversation of top NFL running backs.  In the Jets game last weekend, he had 27 rushes for 121 yds. If you can do that to a Rex Ryan defense, you can do it to anyone. Mendenhall is no stranger to being the workhouse and for anyone that’s watched him he is more than capable of dragging 2 or 3 defenders just before he breaks loose for a 25 yd gain.  He is the perfect combination of power, speed, and quickness that will be needed against a defense like the Packers. The philosophy if any zone blitz, and really any good defense, is always stop the run first. The Packers will most certainly make that a top priority, since watching Mendenhall in playoffs alone is more than enough evidence that he can be lethal if you don’t.  A key the running game will be the availability of Rookie Center, Maurkice Pouncey. As of today he is listed as questionable on the injury report, so he has a 50-50 chance to play. If he can’t go then Doug Legursky will get the nod.  Legursky has proven his worth all year long as being a valuable and versatile lineman, and most recently in the AFC Championship Game. When Pouncey left the game the Steeler offense was still in full gear for the remainder of the first half.  Even in the second half, he did an admirable job considering how much the Jets changed up their strategy to come after Ben. My dark horse for this game on offense is Isaac Redman. The Steelers short yardage specialist could be utilized in more ways, and he’s got decent hands out of the backfield too.

If Pouncey can go it will be a huge boost to the line itself and of course the running game. Even though he’s a rookie he’s been making the calls at the line all year long and been one of the only 2 healthy bodies to start all 16 games (Flozell Adams is the other). Let’s face it you don’t get voted to the Pro Bowl as a Rookie for nothing. If Legursky plays, expect Packers Nose Tackle B.J. Raji and the Packers Defensive Line to really come after him. Doug is used to this though, he’s played every position on the Steelers line this year at one point or another.

In the passing game, I would expect the Steelers to take their shots against the Green Bay secondary, regardless of how good they are.  Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams are as good as they come, but don’t be surprised to see Ben take his shots. A Bruce Arians offense loves to go down field between the 20′s, and with officials throwing flags like candy, who can blame him.  At any given moment, speedster Mike Wallace can blow by anybody in the league or draw a pass interference flag.  In a game like this, you take yards any way you can get them.  The key will be how successful are those attempts and how often do you go after such a good secondary.  This is really going to be a chess match for the Steelers, with having so many weapons at their disposal it’s a matter finding the best way to utilize them without being too predictable and getting burnt.  If I am the Packers, I expect the Steelers to come out running.  If I’m the Steelers I expect this and adjust accordingly. The Packers are not afraid to put their Corners one on one, and let the other 9 guys take care of the rest of the field.  Who can blame them with that type of talent in the secondary. Having the play action available to you is key so you must at least attempt to run the ball early and keep them thinking about the threat of Mendenhall to break one.  Having a home run hitter like him in the backfield is a distinct advantage.

Quite honestly, I don’t expect the Steelers to really be that much different in this game than they have all year. They will try the usual 2 or 3 trick plays and attempt to pick up big chunks of yardage through the air at various times.  Perhaps a little more emphasis on the run, similar to the AFC Championship Game, and see if the Packers can stop it. One thing you have to do is be patient and not go to the well too many times, pick your opportunities and make sure they count when you do. Lastly, you absolutely must, must, score Touchdowns in the red zone. Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of leading scoring drives in a hurry so settling for Field Goals is not going to be advantageous late in the game.  Pittsburgh has been better lately with their red zone efficiency, especially in the post season. They will need it when trying to get 6 from a defense that looks very similar to their own.  In tight situations, in big games, you traditionally look to your veteran leaders on offense, guys like Hines Ward and Heath Miller. You can’t discount what Heath means to Ben and the offense, his presence as Ben’s safety valve and generally getting an automatic first down with every catch is crucial. Same goes for Hines Ward, the crafty veteran knows how to exploit the middle of the field. Don’t be surprised though, to see young guys like Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Mike Wallace take center stage. Considering that Brown has been on the receiving end of the last two 3rd down catches that sealed the wins for the Steelers, they aren’t afraid to put the ball in the hands of their young stars.

Overall I’m excited to see just what Ben and the offense can do against a defense like Green Bay. Bruce Arians has had some tricks up his sleeve with the game plans in the post season, and so far he’s 2-0.  That’s a good sign…

BlitzburghRockCity – SteelerAddicts.com

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  1. Myron

    Could be difficult to find qualified persons with this topic, but you sound like you know exactly what you are writing on! Regards

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