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Old 01-10-2009, 01:06 PM   #1
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Default Tomlin highlights red zone efficiency

Tomlin highlights red zone efficiency
By John Harris
Saturday, January 10, 2009

Despite moving the football up and down Heinz Field with relative ease, the Steelers offense didn't score a touchdown against San Diego when the teams played in November.

While the victory was sweet, the performance of the offense left a sour taste, as 410 total yards -- the Steelers' second-highest total of the season -- went to waste.

When asked about Sunday's rematch against the Chargers in an AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said his offense must score touchdowns when it has the ball near the goal-line.

"We have to put our guys in better position to take advantage of the field position," Tomlin said. "We just have to let it all come together better than the last time we played them."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 31 of 41 passes for 308 yards, and Willie Parker rushed 25 times for 115 yards when the teams played two months ago.

Statistically, the Steelers offense was outstanding. However, the offense struggled inside the red zone. All of the points manufactured by the Steelers in their 11-10 victory were courtesy of three Jeff Reed field goals and a safety resulting from a James Harrison sack of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers.

Three trips inside San Diego's 20 resulted in a pair of field goals -- the other drive resulted in no points when Mewelde Moore was knocked back for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the 1. Another potential touchdown drive was stopped at the Chargers' 23, producing another three points.

"There's no question that we feel good about moving the ball the first time, but against a great team like San Diego, you've definitely got to put up touchdowns rather than field goals," said receiver Hines Ward, who had 11 receptions for 124 yards -- season highs -- against the Chargers. "It's all about who executes the red-zone game plan. If we can do that, we will be fine."

According to Roethlisberger, who established an effective short passing game against San Diego, the Steelers were successful with the no-huddle.

"We moved the ball. We converted on third down (the Steelers were 7 for 14). We (just) left some things out there," Roethlisberger said. "Some of the credit goes to them; some of it is our fault. There is no magic solution. It's just take care of the ball and find ways to get in the end zone."

The Steelers also hurt themselves with a season-high 13 penalties, including seven on offense and five in San Diego territory. A holding penalty on reserve tight end Sean McHugh negated Willie Parker's short touchdown run late in the game.

If nothing else, Tomlin said the Steelers finally settled on a short-yardage back against San Diego. After Moore was stopped at the goal line, Gary Russell converted a pair of third-and-1s against the Chargers, totaling 10 yards on two carries. Since that game, Russell has established himself as the team's official short-yardage/goal-line back.

"That was the game we discovered Gary Russell," Tomlin said. "That has been solid for us."

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 01-10-2009, 08:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: Tomlin highlights red zone efficiency

I'd like to see more of the hurry up offense tomorrow again. And no question when we get into the red zone we must put up TDs on the scoreboard.
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