Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Regrets? Unlike Frank Sinatra, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has none.
If he had it to do again, Tomlin said he would deploy the same offensive game plan against the Broncos that failed so miserably in the first half of the Steelers' 31-28 loss Sunday night in Denver.
The Steelers, playing against the worst run defense in the NFL, abandoned their No. 2-ranked ground game in favor of throwing 10 passes in their first 13 plays.
They tried to pass 24 times in the first half (including three sacks) and run just 12 with a ruinous outcome: Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, one of which started a Denver touchdown drive, and lost a fumble on a sack that was returned 50 yards for another score. The Steelers trailed, 21-7, at halftime.
"Sometimes when you are unsuccessful and lose, you look for reasons why," Tomlin said when asked yesterday if he had any regrets about his game plan. "The reality is that our game plan was really kind of no different than what our personality has been all year.
"We evaluated that. Willie Parker had 10 carries for 48 yards at the half. With Seattle, he had 10 or 11 carries for 18 yards. I think the Seattle game was characterized as a great running game because of how we finished, because we won the football game."
The statistics against Seattle, though, tell a different story. The Steelers ran five times and passed five times in the first quarter against the Seahawks.
In the first half, they ran 12 times and tried to pass 15 (including two sacks) on way to a 7-0 halftime lead.
So, against Seattle, the Steelers ran 44.4 percent of the time in the first half; in Denver, it was just 33 percent.
It has been much the same throughout the first halves of their games with their run ratio much higher than it was in Denver. The only other exception came against Buffalo when Roethlisberger passed 29 times with no sacks in the first half and the team ran 15 times.
In the other games, the run-pass split (including sacks) for the Steelers in the first halves is as follows: Arizona 12-14, San Francisco 14-7 and Cleveland 14-17.
The Steelers had not trailed at halftime this season until the Broncos became the first team to score three touchdowns in the first half against them.
Tomlin saw nothing wrong with trying to throw more often against Denver. The Broncos had the No. 1-rated pass defense in the league, but were without injured cornerback Champ Bailey. He said they strive to mix things up on offense and will continue to follow that philosophy.
"We always come out with a plan that we are going to spread the football around and explore what we are capable of doing to a team, making them defend the entire field vertically and horizontally," Tomlin said.
"I know we threw the ball some, some of it was quick screens, some were run plays where we audible at the line of scrimmage and throw the ball on the perimeter. It is a run game alternative, if you will; when they pack the box, you can throw the ball quickly out to Santonio [Holmes] and he can get 5 or 6 yards and you are looking at second and 4; it is a run game alternative for when people pack the box with you. Really, the game was no different than what we have done in the past from a personality standpoint."
Tomlin said there was one way to explain the loss in Denver: The Broncos -- playing without two Pro Bowlers, Bailey and center Tom Nalen -- outplayed them.