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09-24-2009, 11:14 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report

The Pittsburgh Steelers want their offense to look like New England's, according to Mike Tomlin, but so far it's looked anything but.

Tomlin said he studied tape of the Patriots in the offseason and hinted that it altered his views on what an offense should be. He came to Pittsburgh in 2007 as their new head coach and preached about "power" football. He apparently no longer holds that opinion.

As they prepare to meet Cincinnati this Sunday, the Steelers have run only 34.9 percent of the time in two games, far below what they've done in the 21st Century. Tomlin points out that it is only two games, but also said there are more important things than trying to be a power offense in the Steelers' tradition.

"You study a team like New England and they walk into a stadium offensively, and week to week they can be whatever they choose to be," Tomlin said. "They can beat you in three wides, four wides, three tight ends, and it makes them very difficult to prepare for and ultimately beat."

The Steelers traditionally rank high in the NFL running the ball, low in passing it and high on defense. But their line, backfield, quarterback, receivers and offensive coordinator all seem more suited to a passing game than a power running attack.

"We've got a desire to win a bunch of games," Tomlin said. "We've got a bunch of guys capable of making plays. We've got three and four wideouts that we're comfortable with, two and three tight ends that we're comfortable with, two or three backs that we're comfortable with. We want to create that same persona."

Tomlin said he still strives for balance but 45 runs and 86 pass attempts (including six sacks) is not anywhere near striking that balance.

"You can't truly be successful unless you have some form of balance," Tomlin said. "Ultimately, though, we're interested in winning football games."

The Steelers' backs have not scored a touchdown in two games. Ben Roethlisberger has the only rushing touchdown on a 2-yard bootleg. They average 70.5 yards rushing with Willie Parker leading the way with 66 yards on 27 carries. Rashard Mendenhall is next with 45 yards, but 39 of those yards came on one carry.

Roethlisberger has completed 56 of 78 passes for 584 yards, with touchdown passes to tight end Matt Spaeth (1 yard) and wide receiver Santonio Holmes (34 yards).

"I truly believe that teams that are capable in running and stopping the run are going to be consistent winners in this game. I think that's timeless," Tomlin insisted, despite his offense's heavy leaning away from the run. "I think two weeks in is too early to place a persona on anyone. I think over time it will become obvious what we are and we're not interested in giving anybody a heads up."

SERIES HISTORY: 78th regular-season meeting. Pittsburgh leads the series 47-30, plus 1-0 in the playoffs. Steelers are 22-17 in Cincinnati and have never lost in Paul Brown Stadium. They have won eight straight in Cincinnati, including their only playoff meeting, and 15 of 19 overall against the Bengals.


The Steelers will stick with their running back rotation when they play the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati, even if it hasn't worked so well through the first two games.

Willie Parker, the Steelers' starter since 2005, will take two series and Rashard Mendenhall, their first-round draft choice in 2008, will take one and they will continue to rotate throughout the game.

The Steelers' running game followed an opening-game performance in which they managed only 36 yards rushing in a win with a better performance in a loss at Chicago, when the Steelers produced 105 yards. Mendenhall had 39 on one carry.

"He got an opportunity to play and he delivered, which is what we expected him to do and really what he expected to do," coach Mike Tomlin said of Mendenhall. "As we go on, he's going to get more of those opportunities and he better produce more of those plays."

Will he get that chance Sunday in Cincinnati?

"It depends what he does with it this time," coordinator Bruce Arians said.

Mendenhall said it's difficult for him to get into the flow of the game when he's playing only one of every three series, and Arians acknowledge that.

"Sure, and he has time yet to get into the flow. It's his time to get the snaps and do the best you can. When you do that good, you get some more. But it's still Willie's ball."

Parker leads the Steelers with 66 yards on 27 carries. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has scored the only touchdown on the ground.

The Steelers' sack total increased by 50 percent mid-week when Elias Sports Bureau awarded safety Tyrone Carter a sack of Jay Cutler for a 1-yard loss in Chicago. The Bears' stats crew called it a rushing attempt. Pittsburgh now has three sacks.

RB Rashard Mendenhall's 39-yard run in Chicago was the longest by the Steelers since 2007 and represents all but 6 of his yards rushing in two games. Some think that run can boost the confidence of the team's 2008 first-round draft choice.

"I really don't believe he was lacking confidence at this point," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He got an opportunity to play and he delivered, which is what we expected him to do and really what he expected to do. As we go on, he's going to get more of those opportunities and he better produce more of those plays."

The Steelers are close to becoming the winningest team in the NFL since the 1970 merger. Their 364 victories are one game behind the Miami Dolphins, who are in the top spot.

WR Hines Ward and Bengals LB Keith Rivers will be on the same field together for the first time since Ward's block broke Rivers' jaw and ended his 2008 season last October.

"It's football," Ward said. "If he's worried about me, he ain't worrying about the 10 other guys or his responsibilities. He's going to do his responsibility and if I get the ball, I'm sure he'll take a shot on me. It's not different; if that same play happens again I'm going to take my shot again."

BY THE NUMBERS: 11-0 Ben Roethlisberger's record as a pro in his native Ohio, 6-0 in Cincinnati, 5-0 in Cleveland.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The Brett Favre incident where he hit the guy low? I would never try to do that to anybody." WR Hines Ward, on why he will continue to throw blocks high despite a new rule against it.



S Ryan Mundy has been running with the first team at strong safety because of the thigh injury to Tyrone Carter. Mike Tomlin indicated that Mundy, on the practice squad last season as a rookie, would make his first start if Carter cannot go.

LB James Harrison complained that he was held eight times in Chicago without a penalty being called. The NFL defensive player of 2008 was penalized 15 yards for a low, late hit on Bears QB Jay Cutler last Sunday but the league did not fine him for it.

LB Lawrence Timmons should earn his first start at ILB after recovering from a high ankle sprain. He missed the opener and played a part-time role in the second game.

QB Ben Roethlisberger has completed 71.8 percent of his passes but he has just two TDs to go with three interceptions and six sacks.

WR Santonio Holmes, despite three drops last week including one in the end zone, is tied for second in the NFL with 214 yards receiving. He had no 100-yard game last season until the Super Bowl.

FB Frank Summers became the first rookie to start this season and the only rookie to start in two seasons other than RB Rashard Mendenhall, who started the fourth game of 2008.

DE Aaron Smith is off to a fast start. He leads the defense with seven quarterback hurries/pressures and has one of the Steelers' three sacks.

GAME PLAN: Look for the Steelers to go after Bengals QB Carson Palmer early and try to get him into a short passing game, even though that is how Chicago beat Pittsburgh last week. On offense, the Steelers will have to throw again because they have little threat of a run. Look for more spread and for them to run out of that spread more often.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Bengals pass rush. What has been a one-sided affair (no Cincy sacks in the past three games) could change this time around.

Steelers OT Max Starks vs. Bengals DE Antwan Odom. Odom, who already has seven sacks, moves around but he starts the game over Starks at left tackle.

Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco. Taylor has often been assigned to Ocho and has done well against him.


SS Tyrone Carter, who replaced injured Troy Polamalu the past two games, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with a thigh bruise. The Steelers are hopeful he can practice Friday and play on Sunday.

SS Troy Polamalu, who has not played since his left MCL was torn in the first half of the opener, has targeted the Steelers' Oct. 11 game in Detroit for his return. The first prognosis was he would miss 3-6 weeks and if he plays in Detroit he will have missed three full games.

WR Santonio Holmes has not missed a practice all week after injuring his left wrist last Sunday in Chicago. He had a small cast on the wrist Tuesday but discarded it after that and has not worn one since.

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09-25-2009, 07:42 PM
Good read and thanks for posting Mesa. Right now I would rather see Ryan Mundy start at SS and let TC get 100%. If TC does get the start, you know Carson Palmer is going to attack him as much as possible.