By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A revolution might be taking place right under the Steelers' noses without them even noticing it. They're passing the torch, along with everything else lately.
The offense that has run more often in each of the past two seasons than any other in the National Football League has turned star-struck. They've become infatuated with the passing game, such as it can be for them.
Not since coach Bill Cowher ditched the pyrotechnic air show erected by offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey with quarterback Tommy Maddox in 2002 and 2003 have the Steelers thrown the ball so often.
They have passed 53 percent of the time through six games. That's certainly not a radical amount because the average NFL team passes more often, 55 percent of the time. But it's a whopping transformation for the stodgy Steelers of the past two seasons.
In 2004, when Cowher became so determined to return to the ground game, the Steelers ran 61 percent of the time and passed 39 percent. Last season, they ran 57 percent of the time. This season, they are running 47 percent of the time, just 3 percent more than they did in the 6-10 season of 2003 that caused Cowher to admit publicly he was wrong to fall so much for the new passing philosophy.
Despite the abrupt turnaround, neither Cowher nor many of his players believe there has been a shift in offensive philosophy.
"I think we have the talent to be a passing team," receiver Hines Ward said. "But me knowing us, that won't happen."
Rookie Santonio Holmes said it all when he listed the priorities for the wide receivers.
"Our job right now is to block first, then catch the ball and make big plays when we need it."
Somehow, blocking won't be high on the priority list of Randy Moss when the Steelers (2-4) play the Raiders (1-5) in Oakland at 4:15 p.m. today.
"Oh, man, with the talent we have, I'm pretty sure that it can be a passing team," Holmes said. "But, right now, we're going to stick with the basics, we're going to continue to win football games the way we know how to, by running the football."
Perhaps that is why they are not winning. Every time the Steelers have run more than passed in Cowher's 14 seasons as coach, they had a winning record. In their only three losing seasons under him, they have passed more than run.