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Ground & Pound or Air it out for Steelers in 2012?

The Steelers have been built over the last 3-4 years to be a pass first team. Like it or not it’s the reality, which is tough to swallow for many Steelers fans and apparently for Steelers President Art Rooney II too. The Rooney’s have always embraced the blue collar mentality of their football team but lately it’s been more white collar than anything else.

The sources said the move was made in order to shift the offense back toward its blue-collar identity of years past, in line with the desires of Steelers president Art Rooney II.

Arians, 59, has been the only offensive coordinator in coach Mike Tomlin’s five seasons with the Steelers. During his time as coordinator, he turned the Steelers from a run-first team to a pass-heavy one to better suit Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh ranked in the top half of the NFL in offense over the past three seasons but finished a disappointing 12th this past season. – Excerpt, ESPN

It’s clear that the Steelers front office is not happy with the status quo. The injuries, poor offensive line, bad redzone production, and in my opinion the predictable calling, all had a hand in this. Whoever the next offensive coordinator is they are inheriting a group of players full of outstanding player makers. Guys like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Heath Miller are all potential game changers. All 3 starting wide receivers have great speed and a fearless attitude. Miller will catch about anything that comes near his zip code. Of course Big Ben comes in that package too; a pro bowl Quarterback capable of picking up a team and willing them to a win. All those weapons it’s hard to think that you’d want to do anything but air it out. Or is it?

Imagine if you will a Steelers offense that features the run to set up the pass. Isaac Redman should see an increase in his workload in 2012. A guy who  you can count on in any short yardage situation has shown that he’s got what it takes to take a more active role in the offense. Even with Rashard Mendenhall recovering from ACL surgery, the team has a plethora of ball carriers available to them. You commit yourself to drafting offensive lineman as a top priority. You’ve already started that process by bringing in Marcus Gilbert and Maurkice Pouncey, so don’t stop now. By drafting a Guard to take over for the underachieving and possibly departing Chris Kemoeatu you begin to solidify yourself for the future. There are still question marks with Willie Colon’s ability to stay healthy and if Max Starks can return from the ACL surgery he had.  To be clear, the line cannot be fixed with just 1 player but it’s a start and mindset that you are going to protect Ben Roethlisberger and become more balanced on offense.  Putting more of an emphasis on the run doesn’t mean that you completely forget about the speed and talent at the skill positions.

The play action pass becomes a viable option again and real threat the defense has to respect. Roethlisberger’s jersey gets a little less dirty each week and just maybe he’s not as crippled by week 8 as he has been in recent years. If you want to protect your 100 million dollar investment, a solid offensive line and a good running game is a good place to start. Personally if I see a stat line at the end of a game that includes 160 yds. Rushing and 250 yds. Passing, I’m going to be pretty content on most days.  Your star receivers will still be able to make plays arguably they can have just as much success because the defense has to commit more personnel to stop the run. That means fewer defenders in pass coverage and more opportunities to make plays down field.

All in all, the questions won’t be answered until we find who Mike Tomlin and the Rooney’s will hire as their new offensive play caller. However you have to think there will be a bigger commitment to the run and the protection of Ben Roethlisberger.

Matt Pappas –
Twitter: @SteelerAddicts
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