View Full Version : Steelers' offense remains true to its roots...so far

10-11-2007, 06:00 AM

Expected shift to emphasis on passing game has not materialized in 4-1 start

Thursday, October 11, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It was not just the people outside the locker room who were wondering how the Steelers' offense would change under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Willie Parker, the National Football League's leading rusher, said he and some of the players were wondering, too.

Through five games, some of those concerns would appear to be allayed. The Steelers are second in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 167 yards per game, and are running the ball with more frequency than they did last year and nearly as much as they did during their 2005 Super Bowl season.

Part of the reason: The Steelers have won four games by lopsided margins -- the New England Patriots are the only other NFL team to win four games by 21 or more points this season -- and have not had to worry about throwing the ball in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter.

Nonetheless, Parker said he will wait before proclaiming the Steelers the same run-oriented team to which he has been accustomed.

"We haven't been in that game where we're fighting and fighting and fighting," said Parker, who has more yards (507) and carries (121) than any other back in the league. "I'll still wait and see. We haven't found our identity yet. After the eighth game, halfway through the season, we should know."

The trepidation is well-founded. Arians was known as a pass-oriented coordinator when he ran the offense for the Cleveland Browns before joining the Steelers. And, shortly after replacing Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator with the Steelers, he talked about spreading the field with multiple-receiver formations, employing three tight ends and all but eliminating the fullback.

Even the Steelers' game plans include three times as many passing plays as running plays.

"There are definitely situations where we normally would have run the ball and we're throwing the ball," said guard Alan Faneca. "We're definitely more prone to throw the ball than we have been in the past."

As they head into an off week with a 4-1 record and a one-game lead in the AFC North, the Steelers still look like the same team that relied on the run during three seasons when Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator. At least, the numbers would appear to indicate as much.

Out of 317 plays in five games, the Steelers have run the ball 175 times, or 55.2 percent of the time. Of those, 108 have come in the second half, or 61.7 percent.

Last year, the Steelers passed (523) more than they ran (469), the first time that occurred in Whisenhunt's three seasons running the offense. The reason: The Steelers started 2-6, finished 8-8 and were tied or trailed heading into the fourth quarter in 10 of the 16 games.

"I think there was a misconception we were going to throw more," Arians said. "But what I thought was we were going to spread the field to open up the running lanes."

Unlike last season, the Steelers have not trailed in any of the five games this season (they were tied, 7-7, after three quarters in Arizona, their only loss) heading into the fourth quarter.

The only victory in which they passed more than they ran was against Buffalo, when Ben Roethlisberger threw 34 times, including 29 in the first half. The Steelers ran 33 times for 184 yards against the Bills.

"In the second half, when we got the lead, we've been able to run the ball," Arians said. "But it's one thing to run the ball; it's another thing to make first downs and score points when you run the ball."

To further support the notion he still wants to run the ball, Arians has called more run plays (32) than passing plays (19) on the first play of a drive this season. He said, however, he is more inclined to throw on other first-and-10 situations that are not the opening play of a drive.

One of the exceptions: A 40-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes on the first play of their fourth possession in Cleveland.

"You look at our game plan, there definitely are more passes than there have been," Faneca said. "They're there, but we're still running the ball. We're definitely taking more shots [in the passing game]. It's nowhere near the same game plan we've been doing."

Interesting that the team feels, well atleast FWP feels that the team doesn't have an identity yet and we're still 4-1. If that's indeed the case then it should be even more exciting as the upcoming weeks unfold and this team really finds out what it's made of.

10-11-2007, 09:42 AM

Interesting that the team feels, well atleast FWP feels that the team doesn't have an identity yet and we're still 4-1. If that's indeed the case then it should be even more exciting as the upcoming weeks unfold and this team really finds out what it's made of.

I was thinking the same thing when I read that. Like the article says though...we have been killing teams and are able to run the ball in the 2nd half, kill the clock, and wear down the defense. It seems to be working now, but we might see something completely different when we are in a close game.

10-11-2007, 11:57 AM
I'm still not completely sold on the passing game yet... With the way the oline has been these first 5 weeks things don't look good if we the Steelers need to go to a passing attack... there was a drive against the Cardinals where it looked good but they also implemented the no huddle :dunno:

I kind of like that we don't really know the identity of the team yet, one thing we do know though is the have one HELL OF A DEFENSE!!!! :cope:

10-11-2007, 06:22 PM
Im more sold on the passing game than the running game if you can believe that :lol:

As far as the passing goes, we can be downright deadly when we are in sync. Ben has so many weapons, more than we're ever used to seeing a Steeler QB have at his disposal. If they are all healthy and playing up to their potential I have no problems with us moving the ball through the air. We've shown that potential this year.

The running game is still a bit sporatic so we need to continue to pound that out and be a force running the ball in the first half as much as the second half.