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View Full Version : Steelers embrace luxury of 3 tight ends


lamberts-lost-tooth
05-20-2007, 04:44 AM
By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 20, 2007


The first time the Steelers tried three tight ends in a non-traditional situation (non-short yardage) a week ago Saturday in minicamp, Jerame Tuman, Jon Dekker and Cody Boyd collided on the way to the line of scrimmage.

Let the record show the Steelers' new three tight ends approach was born of humble beginnings.

But let it also show that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' the-more-the-merrier approach to tight end deployment isn't necessarily a sign of the apocalypse.

"I have to laugh because everybody thinks if we put two tight ends or three tight ends in there, we're throwing the ball to 'em," Arians said. "Hell, they're in there to block. We'll throw it to 'em if they're open. We are blessed with some cats that can run and catch the football."

And catch it they shall.

Yet, as you continue to recoil in horror while wondering if the scouting department and coaching staff were collectively "Lost In Spaeth" when they drafted a tight end from Minnesota in the third round, understand that the idea is to play three tight ends at a time no more than 15 percent of the time.

Also understand that it's a formation Arians can and has run out of effectively.

"My philosophy, if there's a game that states it, it was when we played the Steelers in the playoffs when I was coordinating in Cleveland," Arians said.

That would be the oft-cited wild-card game on Jan. 5, 2003, at Heinz Field.

The underdog Browns threw it all over the field and achieved big leads before finally succumbing, 36-33.

Kelly Holcomb passed for 429 yards, but a drop by Dennis Northcutt with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining ultimately helped Cleveland come undone.

"We knew it was going to be tough sledding, running the football against that defense," Arians said. "But we felt like we could create some mismatches in the passing game. And our backup quarterback threw for 400-and-some (yards).

"At the end of that game, we had a three-tight end formation out there. And we busted a run for about 20 yards. We ran the same play again and had a mental error, or we would have busted it for 20 again. The game would have been over, and Northcutt wouldn't have had to drop that pass on third down."

So there you have it.

The idea is to create mismatches more than it is to push the creative limits of tight end involvement.

In January 2003, "We felt our fourth receiver (Northcutt) was better than Pittsburgh's fourth cornerback (Hank Poteat)," Arians said.

In fall 2007, Arians might ask himself, "Is Heath Miller better on this linebacker than, say, our third receiver is on their nickel back?"

Should Matt Spaeth help create mismatches for Miller or for himself, the pick will ultimately be lauded rather than ridiculed.

"The best feeling in the world is when you just pound it 30 times and the game's over and you win," Arians said. "That's the easy way. But you gotta prepare for the hard way, too."

That's where all the tight ends may yet justify their presence.

If they can get 'em into formation without bumping into one another, the Steelers just might be onto something.

Galax Steeler
05-20-2007, 07:37 AM
I believe it will open up some holes for willie as quick as he is and the three tight ends will be hard to cover in a passing down.

steelersfanman92
05-20-2007, 10:24 AM
I think that it is a great option in the passing game

fansince'76
05-20-2007, 12:50 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we frequently operate from a 3 TE set back in the day as well with Grossman, Cunningham and Brown?

atrus20
05-20-2007, 12:59 PM
I like what I've read so far about all the different types of formations that they may run this year. It will be a nice change of pace from trying to shove the ball down opposing teams throats especially if we don't have the personnel to do it.

The Duke
05-20-2007, 03:10 PM
If it helps the passing and running game i like it

HometownGal
05-20-2007, 05:17 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we frequently operate from a 3 TE set back in the day as well with Grossman, Cunningham and Brown?

Yep, we sure did.

I'm looking forward to this new look. :thumbsup: I feel the Steelers have under-utilized our TE's in recent years, both from offensive and defensive standpoints.

Preacher
05-20-2007, 06:35 PM
"The best feeling in the world is when you just pound it 30 times and the game's over and you win," Arians said. "That's the easy way. But you gotta prepare for the hard way, too."

I LOVE that quote.

That is the reason why we lost so many times in the AFCCG. We were ONLY prepared to win by pounding it 30 times to preserve a 10 point lead. But what happens when we are 10 point behind? We couldn't come back!

I also can't help but think about the Ravens last year. Three TE sets allows us to block much better, and also disguise run/pass plays better. It will also give Ben more outlet passes when necessary.

Counselor
05-21-2007, 03:42 PM
I LOVE that quote.

That is the reason why we lost so many times in the AFCCG. We were ONLY prepared to win by pounding it 30 times to preserve a 10 point lead. But what happens when we are 10 point behind? We couldn't come back!

I also can't help but think about the Ravens last year. Three TE sets allows us to block much better, and also disguise run/pass plays better. It will also give Ben more outlet passes when necessary.

Preacher I can't agree more! It feels like maybe, just maybe it won't feel like we're ramming our head against a brick wall all the time with the run game. Not that you abandon the run, but occasionally you gotta try something else for a few plays before you come back to it---so they don't always have 8 or 9 in the box.

Also ---I like the irony of calling running the ball 30 times the easy way.

onthebus36
05-21-2007, 06:26 PM
"Preacher I can't agree more! It feels like maybe, just maybe it won't feel like we're ramming our head against a brick wall all the time with the run game."

I like that they are talking about opening up the offense a little but staying true to Steeler football. I totally agree there have been times in recent memory where we made ourselves one-dimensional way too often.

I think Heath Miller has been largely underutilized especially on third down situations and I think having a 6'7" TE that can catch passes over the middle for tough yards could fit in nicely and provide some opportunities. I also like the idea of having big TEs in there for running down stretching the defense and opening lanes for #39.

I'm a traditionalist so some changes scare me a little but the changes they are talking about on O and D sound good so far. We'll see how they work when they tie on the cleats but that's the fun part, right?

paw-n-maul-u
05-21-2007, 06:52 PM
Spaeth and Miller. I don't think people give enough credit to how big of a steal the Spaeth pick was. He might not be as flashy as Olsen but I really believe he was the best overall TE in the draft ... and DEFINITELY the best blocking TE in the draft.

Faster blocking TE's will probably do wonders for Willie on the outside with his speed.

We are a scary good team on offense as long as the O-line plays up to Par. I really thought that we were going to go off last year until everything happened with Ben.

And they were STILL a top ten offense.

I can't wait to finally get back on track with everything this year.