View Full Version : Ben and FWP Better (Stats) w/out FullBack

07-01-2008, 09:46 AM
Stats Say Steelers Should Ditch Fullbacks
Maybe Bruce Arians is on to something.

As has been noted several times, the Steelers offensive coordinator doesn't like fullbacks. It was one of the reasons that the Steelers drafted tight end Matt Spaeth last year, and it was why Dan Kreider was phased out for Carey Davis--a more versatile fullback who isn't the blocker Kreider is.

But what hasn't really been explained is whether Arians' preference for tight ends is paying off. According to stats compiled by Stats Inc., it is.

Last year, Willie Parker was a better running back when he ran out of two tight end sets, and Ben Roethlisberger was a better passer as well. Whether it's because of Spaeth, or because the two tight end sets gave teams more to worry about, the Steelers were a better team when they left their fullbacks standing on the sideline.


What's most telling is how much more common it was for the Steelers to use one back and two tight end sets last year. Parker had 177 carries out of a one-back formation in 2005 and 2006 combined. But when Whisenhunt left for Arizona, he took the fullback-centered offense with him. Last year, Parker had 184 carries out of a one-back set, and as you can see from the stats, he was very effective out of the one-back formation.

In case you're wondering, that's not something that's true of all tailbacks. Of the other four running backs who had more than 1,300 yards last season, only one, Adrian Peterson, was significantly better running out of a one-back set. LaDainian Tomlinson was better running from the I-formation, while Jamal Lewis and Brian Westbrook showed little difference between the two.

The story is the same for Roethlisberger. He had more attempts last year (78) out of two tight end sets, than he had in either 2005 (when he had 55 attempts) or 2006 (42 attempts). But what's most remarkable is how good Roethlisberger is out of two tight end sets. In the past three seasons, Roethlisberger has 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions when throwing out of two tight end sets. He has 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions when throwing out of one tight end sets.

About the only stat that I could find where Roethlisberger was worse when throwing out of two tight end sets was his sack percentage. He's a little more prone to being sacked (11 percent of attempts compared to 8 percent), but that is more than made up for by his increased productivity when he gets the ball off.

The good news for Steelers fans is that Roethlisberger and Parker's productivity out of two tight end sets last year came with a rookie (Spaeth) who was still learning how to play the position in the NFL. Spaeth's blocking was very suspect early in the year, but did get better as the year went along. If he improves as expected this year, it could make the Steelers offense even more productive in 2008.

Arians took a lot of heat from fans last year because of the stretches of offensive inconsistency/ineffectiveness. Arians play calling is the second favorite target to blame behind the OL.

These stats illustrate nicely the significant changes the Steelers offense is undergoing. In his first year in this system Ben was fantastic. Exciting to anticipate what the second year under Arians brings with the added experience and the upgrade in skill personnel.

07-01-2008, 11:06 AM
I beg to differ on those stats. Parker was good last year, don't get me wrong. I've been saying he's a good RB ever since he took over the starting job and even before; I have all the confidence in the world in him however most of parkers yards came in the open field and when he had a lot of real estate to work with. When you get him inside the 10 or 5 yd line or in a short yardage situation in the open field his production significantly decreases. He just didn't quite have the vision to see the hole or the benefit of a solid FB to open up the lanes for him. Let's face it, Carey Davis may very well turn into a solid FB for us and I hope he does, but he's a young guy who's still learning how to find the holes himself, sustain blocks and be able to read the defense in general.

Bettis always said he was the type of TB that needed a FB to block for him and that's how he felt he was best used. Sure he run over people and make his own holes, that was a benefit to him but having a quality FB when you need him is a priceless thing IMO and any RB will tell you they enjoy that lead blocker to clear the way.

As far as Ben goes, of course he's not always going to need a FB because that takes away a potential WR target for him and with his ability to roll out and make something out of nothing he needs all the weapons in pass patterns that he can get.

07-01-2008, 05:34 PM
We're all hopin that Mike and Bruce's experience from last year translates to a better year THIS year. There were entirely too many instances where we were left scratchin our head and sayin "What the H E double hockey sticks were they THINKIN"??

I said all that to say this: I feel that there'll be [more] confidence in the choices they make this season, which should trickle down to all the players--including Willie. As long as he believes he CAN do it whichever way they choose, he'll be able to play more effectively.

07-02-2008, 08:59 AM
It all starts and ends with the OL, if the 5 guys up front put up another performance like last year we're going to suffer again in short yardage especially. The addition of Mendenhall as a 2nd feature back, and Limas Sweed as another weapon will certainly help but if the hogs can't get control the line then everything will falter; Ben will be on his back, FWP will get stuffed before he gets started, WR's won't have time to get out in their patterns etc.