View Full Version : Steelers should trust Big Ben with this one

10-05-2008, 02:05 AM
Steelers should trust Big Ben with this one
Make passing offense the first choice against Jaguars
Sunday, October 05, 2008
By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When it was proposed to Hines Ward the other day that the Steelers should come out passing, passing and passing some more against the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight, his trademark smile spread across his face and he answered with a laugh:

"You would, of course you would like to."

But Ward has been a Steeler too long. He knows how the team operates and he immediately followed those words with these:

"But we're not going to come out and sling the ball 60 times."

OK, maybe not 60, but what's wrong with, say, 40?

Why shouldn't the Steelers revert to an aerial circus in this crucial AFC game?

They've got a $100 million quarterback and a Five & Dime Store rushing attack. It makes perfect sense to put the game in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger. He's their best offensive player -- by far. Roethlisberger is no longer some young kid who can't be trusted to put the team on his shoulders. He's not a quarterback who should be asked to manage the game, he's a quarterback who should be asked to win the game.

That's the approach the Steelers need to take tonight.

When the discussion gets around to the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Roethlisberger is definitely in it. He was second only to Tom Brady in passing efficiency last season and was third in the league in yards per attempt. He is a proven asset and should be utilized to his fullest. The day is passed when he needed to be a second option. He's a first option of the highest order.

With Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker and No. 1 draft choice Rashard Mendenhall out with injuries, the Steelers are reduced to Mewelde Moore, who is primarily a third-down back; Gary Russell, who was pulled off the practice squad this week and who has seven NFL carries for 21 yards, and Najeh Davenport, who was signed this week and hasn't played since last season. Moore will start. He has carried nine times this season for 19 yards.

It makes perfect sense to turn the game over to Roethlisberger, who has a highly capable corps of receivers. Ward holds every Steelers receiver record, will be a Hall of Fame candidate when he retires and has shown no sign of slowing down in his 11th season. Santonio Holmes, who looks to be ready to become one of the NFL's elite receivers, led the league in yards per catch last season. Former first-round draft choice Heath Miller is an excellent tight end who has been under-used in his Steelers career.

Why wouldn't the Steelers want to more fully employ such talent?

Considering the alternative -- a no-name rushing offense -- it would be dereliction of duty by coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to do otherwise.

To come out with the same run-first strategy that has been the Steelers' calling card for decades would be the height of stupidity in this game.

For what it's worth -- and such stats aren't worth much at this time of the year -- Jacksonville is 24th in the league against the pass and 12th against the run.

Ever the loyalist, Ward argued against throwing the ball.

"Everyone is saying [with all the injuries] that the Steelers can't run the ball, all they can do is pass. That's not necessarily the truth. We're going to try to run the ball."

The Jaguars certainly will be prepared for a Steelers passing attack, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be used.

What's wrong with going with your strength? What's wrong about dictating strategy instead of allowing the opposition to do so?

For decades, the opposition has known the Steelers would run the ball, which is what the Steelers did, and, for most of the time, with great effectiveness. When you have players of talent -- Jerome Bettis, Barry Foster, Parker -- you use them, even if the opposition is geared to shut them down.

Sure, the Jaguars will come after Roethlisberger, particularly if they know the Steelers are emphasizing the pass. Let them come. There are ways of halting a rush, and Roethlisberger is capable of making those changes. Screens, short slants and draws will slow down the rush.

A visiting stadium isn't the best place to use the two-minute offense the Steelers employed so effectively Monday night against Baltimore. That's fine. Go with the conventional passing attack. Roethlisberger has proven exceptional in running such an offense.

It's a no-brainer. The Steelers have the talent to forge an exceptional passing offense. They don't have to talent to run the ball.

Let Big Ben win this game.

Bob Smizik can be reached at bsmizik@post-gazette.com.
First published on October 5, 2008 at 12:00 am

10-05-2008, 09:14 AM
We will be running up the middle for 20 plays.