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Old 12-24-2008, 04:02 AM   #1
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Default Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sure, the Steelers' running game could miraculously spring to life in the playoffs, the way the Indianapolis Colts' pathetic run defense did two years ago.


The Colts spent 16 games establishing themselves as the NFL's worst rush defense in 45 years. They were giving up 173 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry.

Even this year's Steelers could have run wild on that group.

But something totally unforeseen happened in the playoffs.

The Colts started stuffing people. They didn't allow 100 yards rushing in any of their three AFC playoff games. They buried Kansas City's Larry Johnson and Baltimore's Jamal Lewis.

So, yeah, the Steelers could blow our minds. They could keep the ball for 37 minutes and run for 200 yards -- especially if Willie Parker finds his burst and the right opponent winds up at Heinz Field in the divisional round.

I just wouldn't bet what's left of your 401(k) on it.

Assume the Steelers still won't be able to free Willie (or anyone else) against a good defense, and the question becomes: Can this team win the Super Bowl without a prolific running game?

The answer, unequivocally, is yes.

The New England Patriots, in their three championship seasons, had two 100-yard rushers in nine playoff games.

Last year's New York Giants averaged 103.8 yards rushing and 3.5 yards per carry in four playoff games, failing twice to reach 100 yards.

The Steelers are averaging 100.8 yards rushing and 3.6 yards per carry.

So, let's not push the myth that a big-time running game is a prerequisite to winning it all. Even the Steelers of 2005 were a pass-first, run-later team in the playoffs.

Do you need to be able to gain a yard when you need one? Absolutely. The Steelers must rectify that problem.

But the top priority is to put the superb defense in position to win the game, or least keep it close until the fourth quarter, when Ben Roethlisberger normally does his best work.

And that means protecting the football as if it were a block of gold.

Last season's Giants turned it over twice all postseason. They relied on a stout defense, solid special teams and a quarterback who made sound decisions and clutch throws.

Roethlisberger needs to remember what he said after the most impressive victory of the Bill Cowher era -- the 21-18 playoff victory three years ago at Indianapolis.

"I got some good advice the other day from (TV analyst) Dan Dierdorf," Roethlisberger said. "He said, 'Every drive that ends in a kick is a good drive.' "

Amen, and peace be to Dan Dierdorf.

If a possession ends with a punt, fine.

If it ends with a field goal, great.

Field goals get a bad name.

The Colts, during the aforementioned 2006 playoffs, won in Baltimore without scoring a touchdown. The Steelers recently had a five-game winning streak in which 11 points would have been enough to win four of the five games.

Not that Roethlisberger has to be silly safe -- just smart.

If the Steelers meet Tennessee again, for example, the Titans clearly are vulnerable to the pass. The Jets and Texans shredded them, and Roethlisberger threw for 303 yards.

Pass, then.

Just don't pass it to the other team and cover the ball in critical areas of the field (like the goal line).

Roethlisberger is more than capable of playing this type of football. He attempted 177 passes during the five-game winning streak -- at least 30 in each game -- and threw only one interception.

Big Ben remains the Steelers' best bet on a flawed offense.

I agree wholeheartedly with Baltimore's Samari Rolle, who said, after Roethlisberger drove his team 92 yards to victory, "Ben moving around is their best play."

It's not exactly The Year of the Prolific Offense in the AFC. Playoff games can and likely will be won ugly.

The Steelers, if they protect the football, have as good a chance as anyone. Maybe better, with that defense.

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Old 12-24-2008, 04:55 AM   #2
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

I would still feel better if we could run the ball a little more effecient when we need that extra yard or to wear down the deffense yea I think a running game would be nice going into the playoffs and take pressure off of Ben.
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Old 12-24-2008, 05:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

I must say that this article makes a whole lot of sense.
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Old 12-24-2008, 06:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

Debunking the NFL's myths: An elite run game is critical, right?
By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY

The Earth's tides move with predictable regularity. But there is no sure thing when considering the ebb and flow of the NFL.

As vital as they're portrayed to be, a staunch running game doesn't guarantee victory, nor does winning the turnover battle. Freeze the kicker? Make halftime adjustments? Nope, won't necessarily work, maybe not even very often.

USA TODAY has searched for the NFL's truths ... and found a lot of gray areas.

MYTH 1: A team can't be successful unless it can establish a strong rushing game.

Consider the manner in which the New York Giants have succeeded in beginning the defense of their Super Bowl title this season with their three-pronged rushing attack —Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw— and there seems to be little debate.

The Giants own the NFL's top rushing attack (158.9 yards a game) and the NFC's best record (12-3). The only club with a better record, the 13-2 Tennessee Titans, is second in the AFC with 141.1 yards a game on the ground.

What myth?

"That's the one I keep coming back to," says Kerry Byrne, who founded the website ColdHardFootballFacts.com, which is dedicated to challenging conventional NFL wisdom.

"You always hear, 'You've got to run the ball to win.' It's ingrained in everyone's mind as part of football culture.

"Maybe that's true in high school and college, but in the pros, it's kind of fantasy.

"The most significant pattern that I see is that great teams pass the ball effectively and stop the pass. It goes both ways."

Byrne points to last season's top-ranked rushing team, the Minnesota Vikings. Despite averaging 164.6 rushing yards a game in 2007, the Vikings missed the playoffs.

An aberration? Maybe not.

According to ColdHardFootballFacts.com research, just three of the 10 most-prolific rushing teams during the Super Bowl era qualified for the playoffs. The only playoff victory produced by that group came from the 1998 San Francisco 49ers, who won a wild-card game before falling in the divisional playoffs.

The 10 most effective passing teams of the Super Bowl era, headed by the 1989 Super Bowl champion 49ers, combined for a 110-36-1 (.752) regular-season record.

Even so, you'll search long and hard to find a coach who doesn't want a strong rushing game and its twin brother, ball control — especially this time of year, with the elements prone to playing havoc on passing attacks.

Still, while the Vikings are just 6-3 this season in games in which Adrian Peterson topped 100 yards, the Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West while fielding the league's worst rushing game (71.1 yards a game). The Indianapolis Colts? They've won eight in a row and a wild-card berth despite the AFC's most anemic run game (76.9 yards a game).

In January, however, the myth could get tossed out of the window.

Mike Midas, a consultant with ties to former NFL coach Dick Vermeil, says his research regarding each Super Bowl champion since the 2000 season shows that, beyond dominating on the turnover chart in their postseason games, the rushing game rules.

The champions logged at least 27 rushes in more than 81% of their postseason games.

Even so, the Giants rushed 27 times in just two of their four playoff wins en route to the Super Bowl XLII crown. In upsetting the New England Patriots, New York averaged 3.5 yards on 26 rushes. It was the passing game — complete with Eli Manning's great escape and David Tyree's improbable catch to set up the winning score to wideout Plaxico Burress— that allowed the Giants to get over the hump.

(The rest of the article is interesting as well even though it does not specifically discuss the Steelers. - mesa)
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Old 12-24-2008, 07:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

A little late to be trying to establish a running game with this team. The bottom line is we are going to win in the playoffs is with Ben playing good football and the defense.
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Old 12-24-2008, 07:19 AM   #6
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

The Steelers, if they protect the football, have as good a chance as anyone. Maybe better, with that defense.
AMEN to that.

While I would love to see more of a rushing attack, I agree with the crafter of the above article that it isn't a dire necessity to win in the playoffs and go all the way to the Big Game. The D has to put the Tites game behind them and come out with guns blarin' and I have no doubt they will. Field position will also be critical and our ST's have to keep our opponents pinned back - hopefully Berger will have a bit of stronger leg than he's exhibited thus far during his time with the Steelers. We also have to convert on 3rd downs, a problem they've been having recently. And - as the author notes - Ben has to play SMART FOOTBALL.

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Old 12-24-2008, 07:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

This article just states what I have been saying all along. We need not abandon the run completely so to not become one dimensional. Protect the ball and eliminate turnovers and trust our defense. But boy do i wish we could run more effective on those short obvious run situations. I think we all have seen more 3rd or 4th and short goal line stuffs this year.
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Old 12-24-2008, 08:36 AM   #8
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

Again, I'd like to see us commit to it against the Browns, and if we can't run against them, commit to be a passing team in the playoffs.

It ain't Steelers football, but if it's what we have to work with, it's what we have to work with. Our D keeps us in the game and we pass to score a few more points that the other team.
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Old 12-24-2008, 08:36 AM   #9
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

Big Ben remains the Steelers' best bet on a flawed offense.
That about covers our offensive chances in the playoffs. It will rest on the shoulders of our QB. He needs to lead this team - he must step up and become the leader!!!

Playoff games can and likely will be won ugly
And the Steelers know how to win ugly!!!

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Old 12-24-2008, 09:27 AM   #10
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Default Re: Starkey: Do Steelers need to run?

Whatever it takes.

Returning Kicks, creating turnovers, Running, Passing, Hobbling, I don't care how it gets done, just get me a Ring.
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