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Old 09-11-2009, 11:16 PM   #1
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Default Steelers thrive in no-huddle offense

Steelers thrive in no-huddle offense
By Scott Brown
Saturday, September 12, 2009

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 6-foot-5, 241 pounds and is more lumbering than fleet of foot.

Yet he drives opposing defensive coordinators batty with his legs.

Here's another paradox: the more frenetic the pace, the more the game seems to slow down for him.

"In those moments," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "he sees (the field) with great clarity."

What Tomlin and his staff may ponder over a rare long weekend is whether the Steelers should employ more of the hurry-up, no-huddle offense that Roethlisberger operated with such composure in a 13-10 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.

Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards -- the third-highest single-game total in his career. All three scoring drives he directed, including the one that led to Jeff Reed's game-winning 33-yard field goal, came when the Steelers employed a no-huddle attack.

Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to wins when they were either trailing or tied in the fourth quarter 20 times during his career, including the postseason. And the sixth-year veteran appears to be most comfortable when the Steelers are in hurry-up mode.

That isn't to say that Roethlisberger is simply out there winging it in such situations.

Strong start
Last February, Santonio Holmes became only the sixth wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP honors. In the Steelers' 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, Holmes had the same exact stat line he had in Super Bowl XLIII. Here's how he compares to the other wideouts in their first game after winning the Super Bowl MVP award.

Player Team Year Opponent Rec. Yds. Avg. TD
Lynn Swann Steelers 1976 Raiders 2 26 13.0 1
Fred Biletnikoff Raiders 1977 Chargers 3 32 10.7 0
Jerry Rice 49ers 1989 Colts 6 163 27.2 1
Deion Branch Patriots 2005 Raiders 7 99 14.1 1
Hines Ward Steelers 2006 Dolphins 5 53 10.6 1
Santonio Holmes Steelers 2009 Titans 9 131 14.6 1

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said the Steelers have roughly 100 plays they can call in their no-huddle offense. They put in extra practice time on their no-huddle attack last week since plays and formations had been changed because Nate Washington, last year's No. 3 wide receiver, is now with the Titans.

"We have so many plays in the no huddle that it's not something teams could necessarily pick up on," Roethlisberger said.

That begs the question of whether the Steelers will use it more than just out of necessity or as a change of pace in the coming weeks.

With the running game sputtering -- the Steelers averaged just 1.6 yards on 23 carries Thursday -- the offense was most effective when it spread out the Titans and didn't give them time to substitute.

Veteran wide receiver Hines Ward, however, said the Steelers won't become more reliant on the no-huddle offense. That, he added, would deviate from the Steelers' preference for establishing the running game.

"We're going to continue to try to run," said Ward, who caught eight passes for 103 yards against the Titans. "If we can't run, we're going to make plays in the passing game and set the run game up through the pass.

"For us to go out and sling it 40, 50 times (a game), it's not going to happen. We've got two great running backs. It's just a matter of working at it, because when the weather gets bad, we're going to depend on those guys."

In the meantime, Roethlisberger appears more than capable of moving the Steelers through the air if they can't get anything going on the ground.

He kept the Titans' secondary on its heels by evading the pass rush and buying time in the pocket. The same also is true of pump fakes, such as the one that led to his 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the second quarter.

"When you've got zone-dropping teams, you've got to move them with your eyes, with pump fakes," Roethlisberger said.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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