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83-Steelers-43
09-20-2006, 11:04 PM
Steelers must fix some significant problems before offense can find success
Thursday, September 21, 2006

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



The Steelers will go nowhere if they cannot run.

Coach Bill Cowher stresses that each day, admitting he learned a harsh lesson when he veered from a lifelong coaching philosophy for one season three years ago. He has yet another piece of unhappy evidence from the 9-0 loss Monday night in Jacksonville.

The Steelers rushed for a Cowher era-low 26 yards against the Jaguars. They did not use the pass-happy approach they employed throughout the 2003 season that ended in a 6-10 record, they just could not run against the Jaguars.

They ran only 14 times and averaged 1.9 yards a carry. Willie Parker ran 11 times for 20 yards, the lowest total since he became their starting halfback last season other than the 13 yards he picked up in Green Bay before he left early in the game with an ankle injury.

Everything turns on the run for the Steelers, a big reason why they were shut out for the first time in three seasons and why Jacksonville had 15 minutes more time of possession.

"That's who we are. That's our identity," receiver Hines Ward said. "That's what it's been every year since I've been here. Everything's predicated off the run. We run first, we do everything second. If we can't do that, you kind of lose your identity."

They have not put Parker and their ground game on a milk carton yet. They're hoping to revive the running game Sunday in their early AFC North Division showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field.

They ran for 221 yards at

Cincinnati in the sixth game last season and came home a 27-13 winner.

"That's Steelers football," said backup halfback Verron Haynes. "If we have success like we did last year up there, we win the ballgame."

Just two games into the season, the Steelers find themselves in unfamiliar territory -- in the bottom third of the league rankings on the ground. They are tied at No. 22 with an average of 86 yards per game rushing. Their 14 attempts Monday night were one more than their one-game record-low of 13.

"We ran only 14 times," offensive guard Alan Faneca said. "If it was 40 times for 26 yards, I'd be a lot more concerned than I am now. But it's definitely something we have to straighten out."

The Steelers and their coaches promise they still have a commitment to run, although they seemed to take a blase attitude in the offseason when it came time to make sure they had the backs to fulfill that commitment. If they were counting on Duce Staley last spring to replace the retired Jerome Bettis as the big horse to grind down a defense in the second half and to run on the goal line, they overestimated his ability -- Cowher banished him to street clothes Monday night and did not use him in the opener.

Through two games, virtually no one but Parker has run. He has 40 carries, and Haynes has three. The only others with carries are two quarterbacks and a receiver. After two games last season, Parker had 47 carries and Haynes 18 as Bettis recovered from an injury.

"The run, it starts up front," Ward said. "Once we get the running game going, it opens things up for the passing game and we can help control the clock for the defense so the defense isn't out there as long as they were."

Faneca said the running game often takes a little time to get going because of the precision involved. There also is the matter of the opponent. Last season, the Steelers opened with bottom-feeders Tennessee and Houston. They've played two teams with good defenses this season, Miami and Jacksonville.

"They brought the blitz more than they had shown," Faneca said of how the Jaguars' tried to stop the run. "You clog up a couple holes here and there, and all of a sudden you're bending the play out to another defender. They were doing that, and there were some we missed -- some we could have blocked better, some we could have run better. It was all of us, I think, in the run game."

The Bengals will be missing parts on their defense for the game Sunday. Starting linebackers Odell Thurman (suspended) and David Pollack (injured reserve) are out as is starting safety Dexter Jackson.

The Steelers will face a new Bengals run-stopper, though, when they line up against massive defensive tackle Sam Adams, signed as a free agent this year with the Steelers in mind.

"We played against Sam before," Haynes said. "I don't think we do anything different by altering our scheme. We just have to get back to doing what we do best around here, which is moving the ball methodically downfield."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06264/723734-66.stm

Infamix
09-21-2006, 07:04 AM
Nice read, I think the Steelers will re-gain their identity this week in Pittsburgh. I also believe all the Parker haters will realize he's not a one-run-wonder.

19ward86
09-21-2006, 07:56 AM
there are a lot of things that need to change before sunday.