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lamberts-lost-tooth
11-22-2008, 10:46 AM
Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 22, 2008


The person most surprised by the Steelers' longest kickoff return of the season may well have been the guy who flashed through an opening in a 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night and ran over kicker Shayne Graham on the way to a 43-yard gain.

"That's for a fast guy," Steelers running back Gary Russell said, with a laugh, when asked about returning kickoffs. "I'm not very fast. I hit the hole; that's all I can do."

The second-year man has done that well enough in recent weeks to serve in the dual, if somewhat incongruous, roles of short-yardage back and kickoff returner. And Russell's emergence is the latest example of how the Steelers have bought into coach Mike Tomlin's concept that players fall into two categories: starters and starters-in-waiting.

"He is a young guy that is working and is beginning to seize an opportunity and expand his role," Tomlin said after the Steelers improved to 8-3 and solidified their hold on first place in the AFC North. "That is what a team is about, and that is what the season is about."

Russell opened the season buried on the depth chart, and the Steelers released him at the end of September and re-signed him to their practice squad.

Injuries at running back provided an opening for Russell, and he has blasted through it, much like he did the crease the Steelers created on the kickoff return that came after the Bengals had taken an early 7-0 lead.

If Russell has provided a spark as a kickoff returner -- he's averaging 24.4 yard per return -- the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder also has given the Steelers a much-needed pile pusher in the backfield.

In last Sunday's 11-10 win over the San Diego Chargers, Russell twice moved the chains on short third-down runs.

Meanwhile, his fourth-down conversion on a 1-yard run Thursday night set up the Steelers' first touchdown.

His 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter provided the Steelers some much-needed breathing room and gave Russell his first career NFL touchdown.

"I think Gary Russell's done a great job on our short-yardage and goal-line (runs)," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We've had guys step up at every position."

They've needed reinforcements at running back.

The Steelers lost rookie first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall to a season-ending shoulder injury at the end of September, and starter Willie Parker has had trouble staying healthy.

Parker, who missed four games this season with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, sat out most of the second half Thursday night. Tomlin said Parker "tweaked" his knee against the Bengals, and the injury is not thought to be serious.

Assuming Parker returns Nov. 30, when the Steelers visit the New England Patriots, the roles are starting to fall neatly into place in the backfield.

Mewelde Moore has played well filling in for Parker, and he's also more than serviceable as a third-down back.

Russell, meanwhile, is looking more and more like the hammer the Steelers could have used when they got stopped on the 1-yard line three times in a span of two games.

"I got the opportunity," said Russell, who has rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries. "I'm going to keep stacking on that."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_599628.html

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 01:00 PM
Funny how some here were blaming Ligashesky for the lack of a return game. Looks more like the lack of returners were the problem than the coaching.

Russell hit the holes hard and got good yardage on kickoffs. Gotta like his decision making.

kmsteelerwr15
11-22-2008, 01:30 PM
I wouldn't mind seeing what he can do returning punts as well. Santonio is terrible at it. He just dances around and doesnt find room to run, while Russell will run everyone over.

tyler289
11-22-2008, 01:51 PM
Russell is forcing us to keep 4 RBs next year. Willie, Mendenhall, Moore, and Russell will all have important roles.

Depth is always a good thing.

skinart82
11-22-2008, 02:42 PM
I am really starting to love Russell, I think this dude could have a great carer in the Burgh. How's about Mendenhall, Moore, Russell and Jorvorskie Lane! Sorry I used to love Willie, but even last year he proved that in those crucial situations he just can't get the yards. I want the power run game back and I think those four would give it to us!

MasterOfPuppets
11-22-2008, 02:51 PM
the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end. :coffee:

fansince'76
11-22-2008, 02:53 PM
the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end. :coffee:

Yep.

skinart82
11-22-2008, 02:54 PM
I've seen Bettis stuffed on a 3 and 1, it happens to them all, but when it happens to one guy ALL the time...that's different!

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 02:54 PM
the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end. :coffee:

Exactly!!

But at least the fans invovled in the current love fest can always blame the O line or Arians for getting stuffed. Personally......I like to blame Carey Davis :wink:

fansince'76
11-22-2008, 03:05 PM
I've seen Bettis stuffed on a 3 and 1, it happens to them all, but when it happens to one guy ALL the time...that's different!

Like Moore getting stoned on the goalline 3 times in 2 games? Of course that was Arians' fault, as I recall, for not "mixing it up." Sorry, but MOP hit the nail on the head - the first time Russell gets stoned on a 3rd-and-1 and it winds up costing us in the form of a last second FG by an opponent to lose a game because we couldn't kill the clock, the love fest WILL come to a very abrupt end.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 03:12 PM
Like Moore getting stoned on the goalline 3 times in 2 games? Of course that was Arians' fault, as I recall, for not "mixing it up." .

Actually, one of those Moore missed the hole, the other Kemo missed the block and there was another one where lead blocker Carey Davis got stuffed in the hole and the LB that stuffed him made the tackle on Moore.

You guys are right. The back looks good when guys are blocking for him better. I just like the fact that Russell hits the hole in KO returns and as a RB. If the hole isnt there at least he tries to plow thru a crack.......where Dookie used to stop and go lateral.

MasterOfPuppets
11-22-2008, 03:16 PM
Exactly!!

But at least the fans invovled in the current love fest can always blame the O line or Arians for getting stuffed. Personally......I like to blame Carey Davis :wink:

i myself prefer to blame the line. when defenders are in the backfield .5 seconds after the ball hits the qb's hands.....its the line.:noidea:

SunshineMan21
11-22-2008, 03:35 PM
I like Russell as a short-yardage guy . . . Moore is more of an elusive dual-threat guy, and Willie really needs to get to the second level to maximize his speed. I think the more different playmakers we can bring in, the better.

skinart82
11-22-2008, 04:03 PM
I just don't care for the speed back very much, I'ld rather have a guy that can ware down the "d." Willie has done some great things, but the only way he is effictive is if the "o" line is doing great. He can't use poewr to burst threw small holes.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 04:22 PM
i myself prefer to blame the line. when defenders are in the backfield .5 seconds after the ball hits the qb's hands.....its the line.:noidea:

If the defenses only rush 4 or 5....ABSOLUTELY!! If they blitz more, the QB has to recognize and accept responsibility.

When you cant convert running the ball because the FB is stuffed in the hole.....Its the FB.

TerribleSteelyMcBeam
11-22-2008, 04:56 PM
I wouldn't mind seeing what he can do returning punts as well. Santonio is terrible at it. He just dances around and doesnt find room to run, while Russell will run everyone over.

yeah i second that. when santonionionioniooo is back to catch the ball i feel it is normal for him to bobble/drop it, and when he does catch it i am excited haha:blah:

Preacher
11-22-2008, 05:44 PM
If the defenses only rush 4 or 5....ABSOLUTELY!! If they blitz more, the QB has to recognize and accept responsibility.

When you cant convert running the ball because the FB is stuffed in the hole.....Its the FB.

When the fullback is stuffed because two lineman were able to get to him, it is the O line.

Steelers & I
11-22-2008, 05:58 PM
I'm guessing that this topic was a bit too cheerful for some of the grumpier/argumentative memebers, all that they want to read is DOOM AND GLOOM!
A positive post about Russell and some people want to put a NEGATIVE twist on it.
Move on with your miserable selves.

Russell, use him up, he's the best short yardage back on the Steelers roster. Put a real FB in front of him and he's that much better. If he does happen to get stuffed once or twice, then so be it, you'll have that in the NFL, I'll still support him.

As long as Arians keeps a FB in front of him, and the play isn't DESIGNED to stretch the damn run to the sideline where WR's are expected to maintain run blocks for 8-10 seconds, then I DON'T SEE Russell getting stuffed very often.

But of course, that's just my POSITIVE opinion on the subject.

Steelers & I
11-22-2008, 06:05 PM
When the fullback is stuffed because two lineman were able to get to him, it is the O line.

FIRE the offensive linemen! Fire them all!

The offensive linemen are what they are, AVERAGE, you best get used to them because 80% of them will be back next season. An offensive coordinator with, I don't know, lets say moderate intelligence, would design plays and gameplans that account for the weaknesses of his personnel.

steelreserve
11-22-2008, 06:53 PM
i myself prefer to blame the line. when defenders are in the backfield .5 seconds after the ball hits the qb's hands.....its the line.:noidea:

Personally, I blame Bush.

MasterOfPuppets
11-22-2008, 09:45 PM
If the defenses only rush 4 or 5....ABSOLUTELY!! If they blitz more, the QB has to recognize and accept responsibility.

When you cant convert running the ball because the FB is stuffed in the hole.....Its the FB.i was refering to not converting on short yardage. the steelers are 28th in YPC.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 09:48 PM
When the fullback is stuffed because two lineman were able to get to him, it is the O line.

When did this happen?? I cant recall this happening in a game this season. Could you please remind me of when??

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-22-2008, 09:54 PM
i was refering to not converting on short yardage. the steelers are 28th in YPC.

Linemen are not in the backfield .5 seconds on short yardage plays. That is a total fabrication. On most short yardage plays the defense often plugs up the O line, or occupies a blocker and the plays have taken too long to develop and the LB;'s fill, or the lead blockers, TE's and FB's too have been stuffed into the hole.

Sure, if we had dominant run blockers they should get more push, but even if they can stalemate a DT and turn them, a decent blocking FB can seal a LB and get the conversion. That is what we saw McHugh do in the last game.

I have never said that we have the best O line in the game, in fact I think they were only the 15-20th best line when healthy. But even an adequate O line can block well for RB's.....the absense of a guy like Kreider, Lester, Williams, Witman is what hampers the Steelers the most on short yardage. McHugh helps out immensely.

BIGBENFASTWILLIE
11-22-2008, 10:03 PM
I have always liked Russle.. I think that next year we will have Parker...Mendenhall... Russle... and we whould trade Moore...
Moores value should be decent

Steelers & I
11-22-2008, 10:12 PM
Linemen are not in the backfield .5 seconds on short yardage plays. That is a total fabrication. On most short yardage plays the defense often plugs up the O line, or occupies a blocker and the plays have taken too long to develop and the LB;'s fill, or the lead blockers, TE's and FB's too have been stuffed into the hole.

Sure, if we had dominant run blockers they should get more push, but even if they can stalemate a DT and turn them, a decent blocking FB can seal a LB and get the conversion. That is what we saw McHugh do in the last game.

I have never said that we have the best O line in the game, in fact I think they were only the 15-20th best line when healthy. But even an adequate O line can block well for RB's.....the absense of a guy like Kreider, Lester, Williams, Witman is what hampers the Steelers the most on short yardage. McHugh helps out immensely.

Agree with that. Although I consider the Steelers offensive line to be average, in most circumstances, average is GOOD ENOUGH!

I don't know Jackson, some of the members here act as if 25 or 26 NFL teams have some type of TREMENDOUSLY talented offensive line while the Steeelers are stuck with all of the scrubs. As a whole, there's only 4 or 5 teams out there that are truly talented at every offensive line position.

You hit on it man, the Steelers RECENT use of a lead blocking FB will be KEY to their success. The Steelers offensive line is not, was not, and will not be good enough to successfully run the ball from a singleback formation.

As we've seen most of the season, a run from the singleback most often spells disaster because the first defender who's able to shake his block or shoot through the hole of the pulling guard will hit the RB in the backfield. We need the blocking FB to absorb that initial penetration, as you obviously know, it makes a world of difference.

Steeldude
11-22-2008, 10:51 PM
i have been saying since last year that russell deserves a chance and is a good RB.

Galax Steeler
11-23-2008, 09:12 AM
I just don't care for the speed back very much, I'ld rather have a guy that can ware down the "d." Willie has done some great things, but the only way he is effictive is if the "o" line is doing great. He can't use poewr to burst threw small holes.

You must be thinking of a big back like Brandon Jacobs he is a power runner.

KeiselPower99
11-23-2008, 09:59 AM
Ill take Russell and Moore over Mendenhall. He hasnt shown me anything. I know he is hurt but still.

GBMelBlount
11-23-2008, 10:11 AM
i have been saying since last year that russell deserves a chance and is a good RB.

Choosing between options like Moore, Mendenhall & Russell to complement FWP is a nice problem to have.

Dino 6 Rings
11-23-2008, 10:13 AM
I'll take Russell over Davenport every single time. I like the change.

skinart82
11-23-2008, 10:19 AM
You must be thinking of a big back like Brandon Jacobs he is a power runner.

I do like Brandon Jacobs a lot. And I think the Giants are running the ball like the Steelers used to!

lilyoder6
11-23-2008, 10:22 AM
i think davis can block well enough to get the job done...

but with the emergance of moore and the flashing of what can be for russell, it does look like we wasted our 1st rd pick

GBMelBlount
11-23-2008, 10:33 AM
I think it's good to put things in perspecitve here. I realize that some RB's quickly transition to the NFL, but for many it takes time. Although the positions are different, Polamalu and Timmons for instance, were skewered by many fans after their first year......Personally, I would give Mendenhall at least another year before considering him a "bust."

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-23-2008, 11:16 AM
I'll take Russell over Davenport every single time. I like the change.

Me Too.

As for Davis being good enough FB to get the job done. He hasnt. What I dont get is if he was kept for flexibility instead of blocking, what has Carey Davis really contributed in Receiving yards?? Rushing yards?? Special Teams tackles??

Bronco's current FB Peyton Hillis was a 7th round pick and is a better FB than Carey Davis. His being drafted instead of Humpal or Mundy would have upgraded our running game immensely.

Preacher
11-23-2008, 11:36 AM
Me Too.

As for Davis being good enough FB to get the job done. He hasnt. What I dont get is if he was kept for flexibility instead of blocking, what has Carey Davis really contributed in Receiving yards?? Rushing yards?? Special Teams tackles??

Bronco's current FB Peyton Hillis was a 7th round pick and is a better FB than Carey Davis. His being drafted instead of Humpal or Mundy would have upgraded our running game immensely.

I don't know.

I did see him come around the corner last week (I think it was) and actually lay someone out, clearing the way.

He also carried pretty well last year when Willie went down the few times he was given the ball.

Didn't he also have a fullback weakside run that went for a first down on a third down play?

For the few times he is given the ball, he seems to do ok.

Preacher
11-23-2008, 11:39 AM
Ill take Russell and Moore over Mendenhall. He hasnt shown me anything. I know he is hurt but still.

You have to be kidding me. First, doesn't he have to have the TIME to actually develop and PLAY at this level before we start taking shots at him? Goodness. He played what, 4 games and then had his shoulder broken by (Thank you HTG for this GREAT name) Stabbit Ray.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-23-2008, 12:12 PM
I don't know.

I did see him come around the corner last week (I think it was) and actually lay someone out, clearing the way.

He also carried pretty well last year when Willie went down the few times he was given the ball.

Didn't he also have a fullback weakside run that went for a first down on a third down play?

For the few times he is given the ball, he seems to do ok.

Tell me....when he "laid somebody out" did he hit them straight up or take them out at the knees?? I'll guess the latter.

On 3rd and 1 around midfield against the chargers in the 3rd quarter, he gets stuffed in the hole by the Chargers ILB Steven Cooper, (that highly touted 6th rounder from Maine) who also tackles Moore for a loss. That is the essence of Davis' inability to block somebody mano-a-mano.

Otherwise Davis has 11 rushes for 24 yards and 3 receptions for 13 yards and has been credited with 0 special teams tackles. His 58 total yards on kick returns is his best part of his game, but IMO not impressive enough to make up for the fact that he is 1/2 the run blocker that McHugh is.

FB was the easiest position to improve this offseason, but its no longer valued in the new Steeler offense which is ranked near the bottom of the NFL in 3rd and short conversions.

Preacher
11-23-2008, 12:27 PM
Tell me....when he "laid somebody out" did he hit them straight up or take them out at the knees?? I'll guess the latter.

On 3rd and 1 around midfield against the chargers in the 3rd quarter, he gets stuffed in the hole by the Chargers ILB Steven Cooper, (that highly touted 6th rounder from Maine) who also tackles Moore for a loss. That is the essence of Davis' inability to block somebody mano-a-mano.

Otherwise Davis has 11 rushes for 24 yards and 3 receptions for 13 yards and has been credited with 0 special teams tackles. His 58 total yards on kick returns is his best part of his game, but IMO not impressive enough to make up for the fact that he is 1/2 the run blocker that McHugh is.

FB was the easiest position to improve this offseason, but its no longer valued in the new Steeler offense which is ranked near the bottom of the NFL in 3rd and short conversions.

And I doubt very much FB is the reason why.

When your line is completely disrespected, everything else goes down hill.

You may be right that we need to change somethings. But there is no barometer which can measure what needs to change effectively enough (outside of receivers dropping balls or RB's fumbling) until the O line is fixed. It all starts there.