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  1. #1
    Dayton Steel BB2W's Avatar
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    Spread em' out...

    PITTSBURGH – Hines Ward sat in the corner of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room Saturday afternoon and toed the line of blasphemy.

    "We don't want to be predictable on offense," the wide receiver said following a mini-camp session. His eyes twinkled as he tugged at his camouflage t-shirt and twisted open a sports drink. Ward then paused and smiled. He said he felt younger, more rejuvenated. "See, for so long, it has been smashmouth – you know, run and get three yards. Then you have second-and-7 and you run again, get three more yards and set yourself up to convert a short third down. We've always had that mentality. Do I think we'll still have that mentality? Yes, but you will see it in different ways. And maybe we'll be getting six or seven yards on first down."

    He diagramed the offense in the air. It wasn't long before the spread sets of new coordinator Bruce Arians began to take shape from his fingertips. Three- and four-wide receiver sets on first down. Defensive front sevens stretched at their seams. Running backs isolated in space against linebackers in pass coverage. It sounded so &helip; so … (dare the words be spoken in a Pittsburgh locker room?) … so Indianapolis Colts.

    "Oooh, I wouldn't say that," running back Willie Parker said, shifting backward. Understandably, it wasn't a parallel you wanted to draw too loudly in this city. Or at least, that's what you would have thought. "No, I wouldn't compare us to the Indianapolis Colts. Not yet. They've been in that offense for years, and we're just starting to move in that direction. But yeah, I think that's what we're trying to get to."

    Arians might have his compass pointed in that direction, but old rhetoric dies hard. Every time you mention the Colts or the reality that a four-wide set on first down seems somewhat finesse, a Steelers player or coach quickly delivers a missive about toughness and physicality. Nobody wants the general public thinking this franchise is abandoning smashmouth – a Pittsburgh football ideal that has morphed into a state of being in this town.

    "All spread football does is really kind of predetermine the box count," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Whether you're going nine on nine with two tight ends on the field and pounding the football in there, or whether you're spreading it out and going five on six, it really doesn't matter. It's just the nature of what your line comes off and how your backs finish. You've got an opportunity to be a physical football team. Just because you spread the football field, it doesn't define what kind of offense you are."

    And Tomlin insists such creativity isn't anything new for this franchise. When he took control of the team in January, he went through tapes and saw an offense that had the potential to be very schematically diverse.

    "This team has been spreading you out and making you defend the entire field for quite a few years," Tomlin said. "I think that was part of (former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's) personality. When they won (Super Bowl XL), they ran gimmicks better than anybody. They ran reverses and screens better than anybody. And they were very physical while doing it. I think it's kind of a misnomer that us having this mentality is a great change. I don't think that it is."

    How drastic the alterations look on field won't be known for months, but make no mistake, change is occurring. Arians, Pittsburgh's wide receivers coach the previous three years, has gone a long way toward streamlining his scheme. His first order of business was to cut down the old playbook, which had become as dense as the Rosetta Stone from 15 years of additions under Bill Cowher's various coordinators. After that, he made the decision to put more responsibility on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger, who will now have the sole ability to audible protections at the line of scrimmage.

    "The things that concerned me from last season were the turnovers and just a lack of being on the same page in pass protection," Arians said. Roethlisberger was sacked a career-high 46 times last season, many resulting from linemen and backs calling their own protection adjustments and creating confusion. "I'm talking about everyone being part of the problem – our receivers, our quarterback, our running backs and our offensive line. Basically our whole package, there were too many times where we weren't in sync. So we're simplifying that and making Ben the guy who makes the adjustments himself. It's time to let him direct the show. He's ready for that."

    Said Roethlisberger, "It's going to eliminate problems, plain and simple. And if we had taken a step like this at some point last season, maybe the successes and failures would have been different."

    Arians, Peyton Manning's quarterback coach from 1998-2000, was impressive enough during his Colts' stint that he earned the jump to offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2001. And it was during his tenure with the Browns that Arians learned an often painful lesson of how easily a spread offense can fail without a robust running game.

    That's where the Indianapolis comparisons likely end. While the Colts' success still flows largely through the pass, Arians' scheme is going to continue to make Parker as large a focal point as Roethlisberger.

    The point of spreading the field, according to Arians, is to create space for his running game and force more of a commitment one way or another from defenses. It's an ideology that probably has the rival Baltimore Ravens in mind, considering that is the team Pittsburgh will likely have to go through to regain the AFC North title. It's a construct that will take the frenetic and blitz-aggressive fronts of teams like the Ravens and space them out, turning their own attacking mentality against them. In turn, Arians will be able to maximize passing options for Roethlisberger, and open vertical running seams for Parker.

    "I can't even imagine it," Parker said. "I've never been in a situation like that. It's new to me, but it's going to mean more creases and more holes for me. How can that be a bad thing? My whole career here, I've seen eight in the box. Shoot, sometimes I've seen 11 in the box. Hey, he wants to spread those guys out and get the ball in my hands like that, you won't ever hear me complain."

    But the work in progress still has a long way to go. There are still questions about whether Pittsburgh's depth at wideout will truly allow a dedicated spread look. While Ward remains the reliable cog in the passing game and Heath Miller could put up career-numbers in this scheme, Pittsburgh still needs more development from the second wave – players like Santonio Holmes and Cedrick Wilson – and needs Roethlisberger to show he can handle additional responsibilities.

    "We'll get it done," Ward said. "And this offense will really excite people. I remember the first time I saw something like this was when Bruce was coaching with the Cleveland Browns when we played them in the playoffs (after the 2002 season). They jumped right on top of us. That great defense we had, they spread us out, really took our weaknesses and exposed them. All of the sudden, our linebackers were in a position where they had to cover people. We were all over the place. And they went and up down the field on us the whole game. And that's what I think we can do, too."

    link: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slu...yhoo&type=lgns



  2. #2
    House of Steel
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    I got a great feeling about our offense after reading this article. Hines is excited like a kid on Christmas Morning, and Williie sound ecstatic too. I hope Arians have better success with us than he did in the Dawg City.

  3. #3
    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    I had a great feeling about the Steelers offense before this article. If Ben bounces back strong and the Oline improves from last year then I expect the Steelers offense to be one of the best in the NFL.

    We have a top five NFL RB in Willie Parker. A QB with the potential to be one of the best (even though Teemont would say otherwise) in Big Ben.lol A stud TE thats just waiting for the chance to explode in Heath Miller. Plus a solid WR core in Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and Cedric Wilson.

    The key is the Oline and Big Ben. Even without Faneca the Steelers still could have a solid Oline. I know some of you will have a **** fit hearing that.lol

  4. #4
    Dayton Steel BB2W's Avatar
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    I liked the idea of implementing the spread all along...

    Willie is the kind of back that can kill teams running out of the spread. I can't wait!!!

    Penn State switched to the spread in 2005. They went from a ball control offense to a big-play offense that can score from anywhere on the field. I loved the change at PSU...




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    Nice read!! I like what I'm reading as far as options on offense. Like 32 said, when we get our OL solid again, we can come out with different looks and be explosive. Ben calling his own protections should help out quite a lot, afterall its his *** on the line. I like the sounds of what we can expect but all the changes in the world won't do us a bit of good without execution. I don't think there will be a problem there, everyone is stoked about the upcoming season and they all have a breath of fresh air running through them......Damn bring the season on already!!!


    If you don’t stand behind our troops.....Please feel free to stand in front of them!!!


    "Give me a 6 pack, half hour of rest and lets go play them again....We can beat them."
    --Jack Lambert

    "They say that when you're the champs, everybody will try to beat you. Well, I'm glad we're the champs, so bring 'em on, bring 'em all on. If we die, we ain't gonna die running. It's gonna be a fight."
    --Joe Greene

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    SA's #1 Pirates Fan Tetris Champion Black@Gold Forever32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BB2W View Post
    I liked the idea of implementing the spread all along...

    Willie is the kind of back that can kill teams running out of the spread. I can't wait!!!

    Penn State switched to the spread in 2005. They went from a ball control offense to a big-play offense that can score from anywhere on the field. I loved the change at PSU...

    So true about Willie Parker. He is now in an offense that will play to his style and strengths. The style of offense Bill Cowher ran just didn't fit Willies style since he isn't a power back for Cowher's power running game. But playing in that style of offense did teach Willie to follow his holes better and made him a tougher runner period.

    I think with this spread offense that Willie will get to use his natural instincts more. I think he has a shot at 2,000 yards if Willie stays healthy.

  7. #7
    BlitzburghRockCity's Avatar
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    If all this works out the way that Arians and Tomlin are drawing it up our offense is going to be as exciting to watch as our defense will be. We've got the potential to be deadly in every phase. Teams are going to be thinking we're nothing special and it's the same old Steelers but the players we have and the scheme's we're coming up with are anything but !

  8. #8
    Dayton Steel BB2W's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black@Gold Forever32 View Post
    So true about Willie Parker. He is now in an offense that will play to his style and strengths. The style of offense Bill Cowher ran just didn't fit Willies style since he isn't a power back for Cowher's power running game. But playing in that style of offense did teach Willie to follow his holes better and made him a tougher runner period.

    I think with this spread offense that Willie will get to use his natural instincts more. I think he has a shot at 2,000 yards if Willie stays healthy.
    A back like Willie running out of the spread can have 7-8 yards before the defense knows what happened. He will have to get better at making people miss one on one if he wants to take it to the house, but with his explosion getting to the second level should be easy.

    The O-line will have to adjust to some new blocking schemes before they are running out of the spread as well as they can.

    The spread also opens up things for the back receiving out of the backfield... all he has to do is beat his man and he is usually into the secondary. He will also occasionally get lost in the mix and go uncovered.

    It will also open things up for Ben if he has to use his legs...



  9. #9
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    This will also be Bens big chance to redeem himself from last year. If he can prove the doubters and critics wrong.....Look out!!!! With Ward, Holmes and Parker to spread the field, we have the ability to do quick strikes from anywhere on the field.


    If you don’t stand behind our troops.....Please feel free to stand in front of them!!!


    "Give me a 6 pack, half hour of rest and lets go play them again....We can beat them."
    --Jack Lambert

    "They say that when you're the champs, everybody will try to beat you. Well, I'm glad we're the champs, so bring 'em on, bring 'em all on. If we die, we ain't gonna die running. It's gonna be a fight."
    --Joe Greene

  10. #10
    BlitzburghNation's Avatar
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    I'm all for it as long as Miller get's more involved in the offense

    Doesn't matter how we win as long as we "WIN"

    Our season all depends on the play of our O-Line & Big Ben

    I believe our "D" will be more then fine

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