View Full Version : On the Steelers: Run game is slightly better

11-05-2010, 07:09 AM
On the Steelers: Run game is slightly better
Friday, November 05, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers seemingly have come a long way since the previous time they visited southwest Ohio, especially the state of their running game.

Willie Parker was still their starting halfback. Rashard Mendenhall was benched on offense for inattentive practices. Isaac Redman was on the practice squad.

The Steelers blew an early 13-0 lead in Cincinnati in the third game of the 2009 season, Willie Parker suffered an ankle injury that signaled the beginning of the end of his career, and the Steelers blew another 11-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose, 23-20.

Starting in the second half of that game and virtually continuing through the 2009 season, the Steelers could not run. They managed only 24 yards on 13 carries in the second half of that game and could not save their defense by keeping the ball longer in the second half.

It was a recipe for disaster.

Today, the Steelers are 5-2 -- even though they were without their first two quarterbacks for the first four games of the season -- in part because their ground game has improved. But not by much.

After a strong start, the Steelers running game has ground more slowly. They averaged 150 yards per game through their first three, all victories. They have averaged 92.8 yards per game in their past four, in which they've gone 2-2.

The running game has improved, but not by much. It ranked 19th in the league last season with an average of 112.1 yards per game. Today, it ranks 11th in the NFL with an average of 117.3 yards per game.

The same kinds of problems that prompted club president Art Rooney to speak up about the need for an improved running game have cropped up again recently, most notably on first-and-inches from the New Orleans goal line Sunday night.

Are the past four games merely a slump, or are the Steelers settling back into a 2009-style ground game?

"The last two weeks it hasn't been up to our standards that we set for ourselves earlier in the year,'' tackle Max Starks said. "But I think we're in the right place with our ground game. It's just about being more effective with it and capitalize on our opportunities when we do get a running call."

On first down at the goal line in New Orleans, the center and left side of their line caved in the Saints. But right guard Trai Essex admitted blowing his assignment when he pulled to the left on a simple fullback dive and his man crushed Isaac Redman for 1-yard loss.

Opponents also are starting to play the Steelers run game differently lately, Starks said.

"Yeah, I think teams weren't expecting us to do it and kind of played us accordingly from last year and we kind of surprised them. Now, teams are starting to game-plan us and bringing the 8-man box and making sure they're twisting a stunt and not giving us clear reads."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians believes his ground game is improved, and cites his reasons.

"I think Rashard is very comfortable with what he's doing. Mewelde [Moore] and Red give us very good complements, they've all played enough. Up front, we're fairly cohesive; the guys who have had to play have stepped in and played pretty well. When we don't beat ourselves we're OK."

Arians has deployed fullbacks -- in the forms of tight end David Johnson, Redman and sometimes even guard Doug Legursky -- more often this season as well as other two-back combinations. They began to work on not being so predictable with their run game, starting in the spring.

"We made sure we made it more versatile," Starks said. "We started to get predictable with our run. I think that was one of the biggest things last year, by formations -- teams kind of knew what we were going to run when we lined up in certain formations. Now we're keeping teams more honest and have more options out of each formation."

The bottom line has been improvement, ever so slight as it may be.
Another fine

A day after summoning him to a meeting at league headquarters in New York to discuss the way he plays football, the NFL fined linebacker James Harrison another $20,000 for roughing quarterback Drew Brees Sunday night in New Orleans.

He received the news late Wednesday. That brings his total for the season to three fines reaching $100,000. It began with his hit Sept. 19 on Tennessee quarterback Vince Young ($5,000) and became infamous with his hit Oct. 17 on Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi ($75,000).

"I don't know, it's starting to look a little suspicious now,'' Harrison said Thursday.

Does he think he has become a target of the league?

"I don't know. I'm just saying ... they issued $100,000 in fines to me in the last -- what -- month, month and a half. The amount of money is becoming an issue. The fines that they issued to me, two of them weren't even called penalties. So I don't know what to say anymore."

Harrison said his letter from the league said he hit Brees in the back with his facemask. Harrison did not think he did, even though videos of the play clearly show him burying his helmet into Brees' back after he threw a pass.

"I didn't think I really put my facemask into his back. I thought it was off to the left."

He said from now on he will "try to be more aware of the placement of my facemask. I mean, I don't know exactly how you tackle someone and not use any part of your head, especially if you're trying to see what you're hitting, your facemask is going to touch him."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10309/1100892-66.stm#ixzz14OhKEmNP

11-06-2010, 03:37 PM
I just don't want to see them run Mendenhall until his wheels fall off. Also, passing on first downs every now and again won't hurt.