View Full Version : Lacking rhythm By Jim Wexell

01-11-2009, 08:35 AM
Lacking rhythm
Roethlisberger, Steelers' offense have had up-and-down season

By Jim Wexell
Jan. 11, 2009

Funny thing about Pittsburgh, where fans actually want to get down and dirty and run the football, but even during a playoff bye week there are seeds of discontent concerning the Steelers’ offense. That’s why Bruce Arians was called upon last week to answer for its ineptness.

“It’s different in Pittsburgh,” the Steelers’ offensive coordinator explained. “People believe if you run it 30 times, you automatically win. But when I was here (from 2004 to present), we didn’t win any Super Bowls that way. I know how we won them, and No. 7 won them for us offensively.”

That would be QB Ben Roethlisberger, the guy over on the sideline under a hoodie all week after suffering a concussion vs. the Browns in the Steelers’ regular-season finale. So Arians can be excused for mangling perceptions because he’s a bit defensive about his offense these days.

Steelers fans don’t quite trust this offense, primarily because the lack of a running game has made a physical wreck of No. 7, the current-and-future franchise quarterback. The Super Bowl champion Steelers of 2005 already had established a proven run game, giving No. 7 the element of surprise in those playoffs. But there have been no surprises this season. There has been no play-action, no draws, no screens, no fullback. Nothing but No. 7, and it has taken a toll.

Last week, Roethlisberger looked more like “The Dark Knight” than his old Superman self. Because of a concussion, he watched practice under cover, walking in and out of the locker room without reporters even attempting to talk to him. His teammates didn’t try much, either, because all of them understand that Roethlisberger relishes his role as the lone wolf. The aloof quarterback, who put stringent deadlines on teammates for signing Christmas presents, even has his own Bat Cave of an expanded locker (replete with side entrances) for extended me-time. So the hoodie might just be the perfect fit for Roethlisberger, who’s beginning to draw criticism in Pittsburgh.

Seemingly half the talk-show callers prefer that Byron Leftwich play the divisional playoff game, and, in fact, linemen enjoy knowing where Leftwich will be in the pocket, and receivers enjoy finding the ball where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be there.

But Arians made Roethlisberger part of the game-planning process when he became coordinator in 2007, and the front office made Roethlisberger part of Steel City royalty by dishing out a $102 million contract before the season, so a change at this point is moot.

The Lone Wolf doesn’t need to answer to anyone anyhow, and thus far the questions — with a 12-4 record, thanks to the best defense in the world — haven’t been asked by what has been, for the most part, an adoring media.

Run or throw?

Stay in the pocket or scramble?

Check down or check deep?

Line’s fault or receivers’ fault?

Byron or Ben?

These questions aren’t asked because Roethlisberger is the best quarterback to play in Pittsburgh since Terry Bradshaw. No one doubts that. And Roethlisberger still has magic, as his division-clinching (and bye-clinching), 92-yard drive at Baltimore in the final minute attests.

“That was his most impressive moment this season,” said Charlie Batch, the backup quarterback who has been on injured reserve this season but who still talks to Roethlisberger on the sideline during games.

“I wouldn’t call it a signature moment,” Batch said, “but it put a stamp on the regular season because that was our first goal, a division title. Now it’s on to the postseason.”

But it’s on to the postseason with the worst-ranked offense (22nd) of all playoff teams. It’s on to the postseason with the lowest-scoring playoff team (21.7 ppg) north of Miami (21.6). It’s on to the postseason with an offense that has allowed more sacks (49) than every team but Cincinnati, Detroit and San Francisco. And it’s on to the postseason with an offense that has turned the ball over 25 times.

For teams that don’t have the type of championship defense Steelers fans enjoy, those numbers have meant “on to the offseason.”

It could just be the offensive line. That unit has been easy to blame all season. Or it could be “slow and injured” RB Willie Parker who has caused these problems. Or it could be an offensive scheme that has left the quarterback so battered he barely can peer into sunlight.

Roethlisberger has taken a pounding this season, from the first sack by Texans DE Mario Williams that mangled his shoulder to the last hit by Browns OLB Willie McGinest that sent him to the Bat Cave for a week.

But then again, it’s probably just those foolish fans and their misguided perceptions about running the football that have put the Steelers’ marvelous defense in peril of early exit. Yeah, that’s probably it.

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Jim Wexell is the publisher of SteelCityInsider.com and author of the new book “Steeler Nation.”

01-11-2009, 11:11 AM
Wouldn't it be great to just see the offense come out on fire and silence all the critics for 1 week :chuckle: Time for Ben and the offense to drive us to victory.