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Old 08-27-2006, 04:26 AM   #1
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Default Run difficulties plague Steelers

Run difficulties plague Steelers

When a quarterback leads the team in rushing in two of three preseason games, as Shane Boyd has for the Steelers, something's amiss.
But, to center Jeff Hartings, the true character of the Steelers' ground game has yet to be revealed.

"We're not where we want to be, that's for sure," Hartings said. "Individually, I'm not where I want to be, that's for sure. (The starters) haven't had a whole lot of playing time, and we're not going to get a lot of playing time this week, either.

"Miami practice week is going to be the most important week in a long time, considering coming off being Super Bowl champs and wanting to get off to a good start."

The Steelers conclude the preseason Thursday night against Carolina.

The regular season opens Sept. 7 against Miami.

The Steelers gained 108 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry on 30 rushing attempts in Friday night's 16-7 preseason loss in Philadelphia, but 39 of those yards were accounted for by Boyd.

Coach Bill Cowher said he was "a little concerned" afterward, and that "it's not just the backs" that have been responsible for the running game's sputters.

Those concerns don't extend to starting halfback Willie Parker, who was close to breaking a couple of long runs and to scoring a touchdown on a screen pass against the Eagles before slipping and falling to the turf.

Parker attributed his near misses to "unorthodox balance," to wearing the wrong cleats and to "trying to make too much happen, because I knew I was going to play just a little bit."

The screen pass went for 11 yards.

Parker thought it should have gone 69 yards and into the end zone.

"That was a touchdown," he said. "That was worse than the Super Bowl (a Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown run against the Seahawks), worse than Cleveland (an 80-yard TD jaunt last December against the Browns). Nobody was out there."

The other backs didn't flirt with such near misses.

Duce Staley carried 11 times for 21 yards, his 1.9 average per carry failing to match the 2.1 preseason average he dragged to Lincoln Financial Field.

It isn't difficult to find scouts in an NFL press box assessing Staley as overweight and lacking burst these days.

"If we continue to allow him to get out there and play, that'll be the best thing in the world for him," Cowher said of Staley.

As for the running game, in general, "It's not just the backs," Cowher said. "That's an easy way to say it. A running game is about everything. Obviously, you gotta make cuts, but you can't allow penetration. Too many times (Friday night) I'm not so sure what kind of chance those backs had.

"A lot of little things, a guy here, a guy there, it's something that has just not come together as quickly as I would have liked. We'll look at it and assess it and, hopefully, rectify it."

Cowher may be "concerned," but offensive tackle Max Starks isn't.

"No, I'm not," he said. "We're working against a base defense (in practice), and they're bringing their all-out blitz package. It's something we didn't study for, and when they bring more guys than we can put a hat on, that's when it gets a little tough.

"I'm really happy with the running game from what I saw, because we actually had a hat on every guy that we had accounted for."

Hartings remains optimistic because he knows what the Steelers are capable of on the ground.

"We can handle it, for sure," Hartings said. "It's just going to be a matter of taking care of business Miami week."
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Old 08-27-2006, 07:55 AM   #2
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Default Re: Run difficulties plague Steelers

While Duce hasn't looked very good (to put it mildly) and Haynes did not have his greatest game the other night, our o-line is not looking very strong at all. It's always easy to put the full blame on the backs. The second stringers are particulary bad on the outside. The first stringers are being expected to pass protect but are weak on that left side (both Smith and Faneca getting owned). Then again we have a history of drafting run blocking type of o-lineman. If I recall correctly Colon/Kemoeatu/Essex have played college ball in a run/shoot type of offense and all three have looked pretty dismal.

While these guys are still young, it gives you a better understanding of why our running game is not looking very good during this preseason. It's not just our backs, it has alot to do with what's going on up front. For the record, I'm not panicking. I'm just trying to point out that some are putting the full blame on the backs instead of looking at the way that o-line has played. I still feel we will be fine come September 7 even though the "doom and gloom" is setting in around this area to a degree.

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Old 08-27-2006, 08:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Run difficulties plague Steelers

I know in the Minnesota game...every time Duce got the ball he was surrounded...and to a certain extent against the Eagles as well...I would DEFINITELY like to see Duce jumping the hole quicker...

My O-line concern is also the pass protection. Ben was being constantly harrassed and hit...no suicide notes being left by me either...LOL...I do believe this unit will crank it up and be..once again...one of the best in the business...
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Old 08-27-2006, 11:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: Run difficulties plague Steelers

It is preseason and the starters have not played that much. They will be ready for the opener against Miami.
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Old 08-27-2006, 01:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Run difficulties plague Steelers

well they better start preparing for Miami now then, cause the Dolphins are gonna bring it and would like nothing better to start the season off kicking the shit out of the defending SuperBowl Champs. I have a comfort with Parker, like i said i loved the screens to him that we showed the other night to get him in some open field opportunities and also as a flair for ben if nothing is downfield.

Everything does start with the O line, so regardless if Staley is the Michelin Man or not, it wont matter if the front line doesnt get its ass in gear.
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Old 08-27-2006, 01:18 PM   #6
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Default Re: Run difficulties plague Steelers

if the running game falters im confident in ben to win games with his arm. that will open things for the running game. thats when willie will really take off. keep in mind e. james has done squat for the cardinals this preseason. doesnt mean hes gonna suck when the season begins.

anyone remember rickey williams 1st season with the dolphins when he led the league in rushing with 1800+ yards? their running game was horrible in the preseason.
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