PITTSBURGH -- If the playoffs are here, Bruce Arians knows what people in Pittsburgh are thinking. (No you don't, not even a clue!)
It's time for the Steelers' old reliables, a smothering defense and a pound-it-out running game. Just like the good old days of the 1970s, when the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons.
Arians, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, wonders if it's not time for some new thinking. (It took you 17 F*ck'n weeks to figure that out! )
"It's different in Pittsburgh because people believe that if you run it 30 times, you win. Well, OK, let's go kneel down three times and we'll win," Arians said Wednesday.
"But while I've been here, we didn't win any Super Bowls that way. I know how we won it, and No. 7 (Ben Roethlisberger) won it for us, offensively (in the 2005 season)."
The Steelers' offense became uncharacteristically reliant on the pass this season, partly because running back Willie Parker “a 1,200-yard rusher each of the previous three seasons“ injured a knee in September and has lacked his usual speed and cutback ability.
Their 460 rushing attempts this season were the fewest they've had since 2003, when they ran 446 times with former Arena League quarterback Tommy Maddox leading the offense. Their 3.7 yards per carry average also was their lowest since 2003, when they averaged 3.3.
Until Parker ran for 116 yards Sunday against the Browns in what essentially was a tune-up game, he had only one 100-yard game since the second week of the season. Arians understands the falloff in the running game created nervousness for those who prefer the Steelers to win the traditional way.
Arians said they shouldn't fret. The forward pass, he recalled, has been perfectly legal for more than a century now.
The Steelers' Super Bowl run three years ago was anything but that, Arians pointed out, remembering how no Steelers back gained 60 yards in their first three playoff games before Parker ran for 93 yards against Seattle, with 75 yards on a single play.
"I was in all those game plan meetings, and none of which was to run the ball, or we wouldn't have won the Super Bowl," said Arians, the wide receivers coach from 2004-06. "We were out to score points and get them as fast as we could and then see if we could run it. And we didn't run it very good at Denver, and we didn't run it very well in Indianapolis, but we threw it real good, and we scored a lot of points. When it's all said and done, that's still the game."
It will be the game again when the Steelers play their divisional playoff game Jan. 11, even though Roethlisberger didn't practice this week because of concussion.
While Parker showed occasional bursts against the Browns, his 34-yard TD run Sunday was his longest this season. He was limited to 113 yards in his previous three games, and held below 50 yards five times.
"We don't have Jerome (Bettis)," Arians said. "We do have Willie, we do have Mewelde (Moore), we've got some good backs. We do know how to run the ball satisfactorily “ not great “ but satisfactorily."
Arians doesn't doubt Roethlisberger will be rested, ready and healthy for the divisional game, despite being hurt Sunday. Roethlisberger's injury gave backups Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon more snaps than usual in practice this week.
"He'll be fine," Arians said. "And if he happens not to be, we won't change. We'll just run what we run and be who we are."
And that's not a run-heavy team, not like the Steelers of before."But it definitely felt good (to run the ball Sunday), going into the playoffs you want to have your run game clicking," left tackle Max Starks said. "We already know we have the passing game down. You're going to need both aspects to be successful."