Seven ways the Steelers can run on the Cardinals
January 27, 2009
Like the Cardinals, the Steelers have found postseason success by returning to a run-first mentality. Willie Parker will be the key to Pittsburgh's ground attack, and he will have to be effective in order to slow the Cardinals' signature blitz schemes. Here are our thoughts on some ways to attack that Arizona defense with the run game:
1. Run off tackle
When healthy, Parker is flat out one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, and once he hits the open field, he can outrun defensive backs. He is at his best running off tackle where he doesn't have to run through as much contact. Once he gains the corner and makes his move upfield, he has great explosiveness. Look for Pittsburgh to attack the edges of the line of scrimmage with Parker and give him a running start at the defense.
2. Run the G-Power
Pittsburgh is a righthanded running team. They will pull the left guard and run either a power off-tackle play, or a straight lead inside depending on his block. If the front-side blockers can seal the defensive end inside, the pulling guard will lead the run off tackle, picking up the outside linebacker or the safety in the box to spring Parker to the second level. If they can't hook the end, they will kick him outside, and the guard will cut up inside the tackle and Parker will follow him through the hole.
3. Run behind Heath Miller
Tight end Heath Miller is the Steelers' best run blocker, and because Parker always tries to get to the outside, Miller is the key player at the point of attack in the run game. He uses his hands well and keeps his feet moving on contact. He is physical as a blocker and always gives great effort, which is why the Steelers primarily run to his side. Arizona will set up with an extra defender to Miller's side, looking to bring an unblocked player against the run. But he has the ability to dominate at the line and get Parker to the second level.
4. Incorporate the toss play
A great way to get Parker out on the edge is with the toss play. The design of the play gives Parker a jump towards the outside and allows the linemen to concentrate on blocking down at the point of attack. It puts Parker in space and will give him an opportunity to get up to top speed quickly while working in more space.
5. Fake the WR reverse
Look for the Steelers to confuse the Cards' defense by using receivers Santonio Holmes or Hines Ward on a fake reverse. This will loosen up the corner and create more space for Parker to run, when he does get the ball, on the perimeter where he's at his best.
6. Third-down draw plays
Ben Roethlisberger was one of the most-sacked QBs in the NFL on third down this season, suffering a sack once every eight pass attempts on third down. Expect the Cardinals to blitz on third-and-5 or more. That's when Pittsburgh should call the draw. This will allow the defense to come up field hard and leave Parker to dissect the remaining players left in the tackle box.
7. Don't force Parker
Though Parker has reliable in recent games, the Steelers' best option for getting the ball out on the edge may be with Mewelde Moore as a receiver out of the backfield.
RealScouts, a team of pro football scouts, analyzes NFL players, coaches and teams exclusively for Sporting News