View Full Version : How Steelers can win without Roethlisberger

09-04-2010, 03:20 PM
While Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is out, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to keep the wheels on. Although they will be down an important man, a strong, physical team effort can keep them from spinning in reverse.

Here are four things they must do to stay on track into mid-October, regardless of who replaces Roethlisberger:

Pound the ball

Mendenhall gained 1,108 rushing yards last season.

For the first time since Jerome Bettis and Bill Cowher left, the Steelers have a reliable power back. “Rashard Mendenhall will absolutely be key for them early,” Cowher said. Last year, Mendenhall proved he can remain a tough runner with a heavy workload, but he will need a big assist from his line.

The Steelers, set to start rookie Maurkice Pouncey(notes) at center, must consistently open holes between the tackles. A potential bonus for the ground game is the dazzling scrambling ability of quarterback Dennis Dixon(notes), who’s more likely to start after Byron Leftwich(notes) injured a knee Thursday.

Rookie Jonathan Dwyer(notes), who is making a late surge to try to make the team, could also be effective if he sticks with a no-nonsense, straight-ahead running style.

Even if the Steelers lack Roethlisberger’s big arm, they must at least show they can stretch the field for the occasional big pass play to wide receiver Mike Wallace(notes). That will keep opponents from stacking the box to take away Mendenhall.

Rely on the defense

With all due respect to Roethlisberger, he’s not the Steelers’ most irreplaceable player. “It’s a must that Troy Polamalu(notes) stays healthy for them,” Cowher said.

Polamalu, a versatile safety who missed 11 games last season, will be vital as both an extra run stuffer and in helping the secondary cut down on backbreaking plays. The return of defensive end Aaron Smith(notes), who also missed 11 games last season, is key, too. He’s a linchpin in the line and will bolster the pass rush.

The Steelers have depth in their front seven, so defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will have options to both mix up his 3-4 looks and personnel. While the unit goes into attack mode, it also must maintain discipline.

Win the turnover battle

Though Polamalu’s playmaking boosts the takeaway potential, it won’t help the team if the offense doesn’t take care of the ball. Coach Mike Tomlin knows his team can’t afford big mistakes.

Polamalu has missed 16 games the past three seasons.

“The first part about being a tough team to beat is not beating yourself,” Tomlin said. Last season, the Steelers were minus-3 in turnover margin, 20th in the NFL.

They need someone other than Polamalu to rack up interceptions, and the quarterback must have the mindset of opting to throw the ball away instead of forcing a pass into coverage. The defense must put the offense in position where it doesn’t need to score a ton of points, but the team is no position to shorten its possessions.

Take advantage of the schedule

The first six weeks include three home games and a bye. Victories over the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are musts, and the Steelers are fortunate they will face Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens at home in the first month.

Perhaps the most crucial game comes against a team that might occupy a similar position in the playoff hunt: at Tennessee in Week 2. For the Steelers, anything less than a 3-2 start in a tough conference won’t cut it.

Pittsburgh had owned its series against the Ravens until last season, when Baltimore took advantage of a Dixon start to steal a game in overtime. The Ravens have a rising offense with familiar faces and Ray Lewis(notes) fronting the defense. In an intense division rivalry, they won’t come into Heinz Field intimidated—or sympathetic to the Steelers’ plight without Roethlisberger.

Baltimore and Tennessee are rough-and-tumble matchups, and the Steelers must be at their physical best to have a chance.


09-04-2010, 03:47 PM
blah...I didn't even feel like reading it wen I saw the bolds.

They better not play too conservative.

Yes their defense needs to be good but what Dixon needs to do is play free without making too many stupid mistakes. If he feels he has to run, he should run without worrying about people criticizing him for running too much. It is when he tries to force things that INTs occur.

I say:

1. Don't be too predictable with constant runs and only throwing on 3rd downs when you have to and it will be predictable again.

2. Encourgae Dixon to run if he feels like it.

3. Limit the playbook. So what? Just keep changing the plays from week to week so the plays a team studies will be different. 20 plays each week is enough.

4.Practice situational football including wat to do if receivers are covered.

5. Practice redzone plays

6.Practice redzone plays

7.Practice redzone plays

8. Go deep to Wallace at least 4 times per game.

9. Run some screens...or some deep plays wehre the check down is a screen. maybe the safties will be focusing so much on the screen developing that a 1 on 1 develops.

09-04-2010, 03:53 PM
Dixon most likely won't be the starter. They'll probably just use him situationally.

Batch will be doing a hell of a lot of screens though, that's for sure. They may use Dixon for a bomb here or there, or just to keep the other teams defense on its toes. The running game will be a huge factor for the first 4 games though, there's no getting around that. No reason to send either Batch or Dixon out there and try to make them a gunslinger. They certainly don't want to dig themselves into a 1-3 or 0-4 hole before the bye week. So I'm guessing it will be a lot more conservative than it would be if Ben were in.

09-04-2010, 05:18 PM
I am expecting to see some strange formations and even weirder plays out of our offense this first few weeks. Bruce Arians is a VERY creative fellow who designs some downright brilliant plays (he just doesn't know WHEN to call them-- a good argument for him not being our OC), and he and Tomlin have already stated they are designing packages specially to feature Dixon's abilities and (at the time) Leftwich's strengths (hey, I am sure he had some).

NFL head coaches rarely show their hand before the season starts, and with the loss of Ben, I think we are going to come out and run some plays that the other teams have no idea about.

We have the backfield to run a wildcat (Randle El, Dixon), or just about any other type of gadget play you can think of.

We have a full stable of reliable and talented RBs.

We have a talented and deep WR corps.

I generally am not a big fan of gadgets-- we should be able to beat other teams by playing fundamentally solid ball, without all the trickery. But we have an unusual situation the first 4 weeks, and I see Tomlin and company being willing to turn over every rock to find solutions right now. Will be interesting....

09-04-2010, 07:00 PM
I am not 100% sure Batch will be the starter. This could be a smokescreen to confuse Atlanta. lol

09-04-2010, 07:05 PM
Add in don't lose games due to special teams.

09-05-2010, 04:06 AM
What makes you guys think that Batch has a bad long ball? Batch has a very good long ball. We will win the games the same way we won games when Ben was younger (SB40) or when Ben was throwing 3 and 4 picks in a game (Jags)

09-05-2010, 11:58 AM
...Thats why Rooney said "I want to POUND that Ball !!!"
and what the Owner wants', the Owner gets.

09-05-2010, 11:31 PM
...Thats why Rooney said "I want to POUND that Ball !!!"
and what the Owner wants', the Owner gets.

Thats NOT what he said. He said he "wants to run the ball more effectively". It was not a mandate for us to run more. Just wants us to run better and who doesnt?