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On the Steelers; Running more versus running effectively

There was a great disturbance in the force that is Steelers’ Nation this week and it has nothing to do with Jedi-Knights or Casey Hampton walking through the locker room. At about the same time that it was announced that former offensive tackle Willie Colon would be moving inside to the left guard position, he also made some comments regarding new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s playbook.

This was about the time the disturbance took place. Colon said he believes Haley’s offense will feature more running and more play-action pass. Immediately, Yinzers everywhere broke into pandemonium of one sort or another not unlike when your office runs out of coffee on Monday morning.

What we have to understand is that there are many Steelers’ fans who believe the team needs to return to the Bill Cowher days of three yards and poof of dust. Control the ball on offense and play great defense and you’ll be successful. To be fair to Cowher, I didn’t always see his offense as that boring, but it was close at times.

The other segment of Steelers’ fans views the National Football League in its’ current state and recognizes that offenses today are built around the passing game, speed and athleticism. Don’t think so? Then why did the Steelers draft a 5’11” linebacker known for his speed and athleticism in the third round? Think coverage of tight ends and running bakcs if you need help here…

Both camps make compelling arguments but what some absolutely refuse to see is that there is a middle ground here.

As I’ve argued for the last several seasons, running the football successfully is not as equated to quantity like it once was. It’s the quality of rushing attempts that matter. Bruce Arians isn’t in Indianapolis because the Steelers didn’t run the ball enough, he’s gone because they couldn’t run it effectively, especially in the red zone.

The days of needing a guy to rush for over 100 yards per game to earn a victory really are over. Common sense tells you that if you do, you’re chances of winning go up significantly, but running the ball a lot doesn’t always put points on the board either.

I can’t sit here and tell you that Colon is wrong, he’s a heck of a lot closer to the offense than I am but I just don’t buy the “running more” stuff. It would be like getting the keys to dad’s Ferrari and not driving more than 25mph. Haley has inherited an all-pro quarterback in his prime, a group of very athletic receivers and an improved offensive line.

What I believe Colon means by “running more” is his way of saying that this team will emphasize being able to run the ball more effectively without having to run it more often. Fans take pride in how their teams play their games and physical, hard-nosed football will always be a part of the Steelers’ tradition, but the NFL is built differently now and I really can’t see Haley going against the grain.

Yes, you may see more running, but what you really will be seeing is more effective running in 2012. Don’t be fooled because the force can work in mysterious ways.

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