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Oviedo
11-05-2008, 12:24 PM
Grumbling over playcalling heats up


By Jim Wexell
SteelCityInsider.com
Posted Nov 5, 2008


With fierce defense, battered QB, and young run blockers on the offensive line, Willie Parker wonders why the team's not playing "Steelers football."

A Monday night win at the home of an elite NFC East team has thrust the Steelers back into the limelight.
They’re 6-2 and once again being hailed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

All’s well, sayeth the national media, who joke that there’s a semblance of a quarterback controversy brewing. After all, backup Byron Leftwich entered the game and got rid of the dang thing. The guy’s decisive and understands how to check down and the Steelers might want to consider making him their quarterback even when the bruised and battered Ben Roethlisberger isn’t so bruised and battered.

Of course, it’s just a minor controversy to pass the time. It’s not a legitimate debate. But this is: the offensive playcalling is putting everything at risk.

“It’s going to change,” growled one assistant defensive coach. “It HAS to change.”

“It drives us crazy on the sideline,” said one defensive player. “Willie gains eight yards on first down and then we start throwing. No one understands it.”

Of course, that’s the defensive perspective. On offense, Hines Ward has always said what’s needed to be said, even in the face of public ridicule. But this rarity of a wide receiver, one who’d rather run first and pass second, would not question the pass-first, run-second philosophy seemingly embraced by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

“I don’t know. We’re winning and that’s the bottom line,” Ward said early Tuesday morning from the winning locker room at Fedex Field. “We’re just trying to figure out what we can do to move the ball. We’ve gone back and forth, couldn’t get anything going early, but in the second, third quarter we started making plays.

“Can it work? We’re 6-2 right now and that’s the bottom line in this business.”

Of course, Ward said this as ESPN and NFL Network cameras rolled two feet from his face. I countered to Ward that he didn’t sound or look convinced about his answer.

“I don’t know. I’m happy to be 6-2,” he said.

Another key offensive player had no cameras in his face, so perhaps that emboldened Willie Parker to speak openly.

Parker returned from a four-game absence due to a knee sprain and carried 21 times for 70 yards, which isn’t really a light workload for a player who admitted he’s still not 100 percent healthy. But Parker can see that this offense has no intention of returning to the run-first days of Ken Whisenhunt and, really, all but one or two of the coordinators who’d come before him.

“We need to get back to Steelers football,” Parker said far from the celebratory inquisitions of the celebratory national media. “I’m going to have a talk with some people.”

Parker would love to get back to the days of running consistently behind a fullback. He did so four times prior to his goal-line 1-yard touchdown run, and on those four carries he’d compiled 20 yards. Carey Davis, in fact, wiped out strong safety Chris Horton on a Chris Kemoeatu counter power pull right and Parker ripped off a 13-yard run late in the first quarter, his longest of the game. But Davis was yanked and didn’t return to lead block for Parker until the first play of the third quarter, when he stuffed London Fletcher in the hole as Parker scampered for six yards.

Of course, the lead play doesn’t work all of the time. Late in the game, while protecting a 23-6 lead, Davis led Parker on carries of 1, 1, and 0 yards. But that’s to be predicted in such situations, and that’s how Arians will counter this argument, that a fullback leading a succession of Steelers running backs through the hole becomes too predictable.

Yet, the defense will counter that argument with its brutally precise play. It’s the No. 1 defense in the league and should be complemented by an offense that’s not intent on risking the health of its quarterback with one risky playcall after another. It must also be mentioned that a consistent run game would better serve a young group of offensive linemen who are much more comfortable driving men off the line than backing up and hoping not to get beat.

Make no mistake, this 6-2 Super Bowl contending offense is off kilter and the grumbling is becoming louder. At least there’s one player who doesn’t mind stirring the drink, even when the bulk of the populace has turned its lonely eyes to the decisiveness of a backup quarterback.

“I want to sit down with B.A. and Coach Tomlin and talk about this,” Fast Willie Parker said, “because when I’m all the way back, I expect to get the ball. I’m a running back. I want to run the ball. We’ve got to get back to Steelers football.”

Iron Shiek
11-05-2008, 12:26 PM
“It drives us crazy on the sideline,” said one defensive player. “Willie gains eight yards on first down and then we start throwing. No one understands it.”



I was a little shocked that they didn't keep running the ball when it seemed to be working as well. However how many times have they attempted to get 1 or 2 yards and failed. That's probably why they pass...

How can you not get 1 yard!!!!!!!!!!!

Oviedo
11-05-2008, 12:32 PM
“It drives us crazy on the sideline,” said one defensive player. “Willie gains eight yards on first down and then we start throwing. No one understands it.”



I was a little shocked that they didn't keep running the ball when it seemed to be working as well. However how many times have they attempted to get 1 or 2 yards and failed. That's probably why they pass...

How can you not get 1 yard!!!!!!!!!!!

I think this is where they are missing Mendenhall. None of the backs they have now are noted for being able to move the pile as a real power runner. Since they aren't dressing Russell their first two RB options are two players less than 210lbs. Not exactly what beats a defense into submission.

This is where we would have been nice to get Owen Schmitt in the draft. He would have eliminated the need for carey davis and still provided a legitimate power runner late in the game ala Mike Alstott.

proudpittsburgher
11-05-2008, 12:53 PM
“It drives us crazy on the sideline,” said one defensive player. “Willie gains eight yards on first down and then we start throwing. No one understands it.”



I was a little shocked that they didn't keep running the ball when it seemed to be working as well. However how many times have they attempted to get 1 or 2 yards and failed. That's probably why they pass...

How can you not get 1 yard!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Brandon Jacobs, or Clinton Portis for that matter. :tt2

stlrz d
11-05-2008, 03:10 PM
“It drives us crazy on the sideline,” said one defensive player. “Willie gains eight yards on first down and then we start throwing. No one understands it.”



I was a little shocked that they didn't keep running the ball when it seemed to be working as well. However how many times have they attempted to get 1 or 2 yards and failed. That's probably why they pass...

How can you not get 1 yard!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Brandon Jacobs, or Clinton Portis for that matter. :tt2

It's not always as simple as the size of the back, is it?

Flasteel
11-05-2008, 06:34 PM
Halle-frigin-lujah! It's about time we started hearing grumblings from the team or at least the media asking the question about our pathetic play calling. It's not just about pounding the rock, but exposing our quarterback to unnecessary and repeated pressure with inane pass plays when we do throw. I've been fearful that any type of success this team enjoys will mask the need to jettison Arians after the season. If players are openly wondering about the direction of the offense, then certainly Tomlin is aware of the potential damage this can cause...and hopefully this is the first step towards his eventual departure.

Obviously I want us to win big, win often, and win the whole damn thing, but it's going to be awful hard to be the last team standing with the offense we continue to trot out. I guess if we do hoist a sixth Lombardi here in Tampa, then we will have either seen Arians relieved of play calling duties or our defense will just continue to be completely dominant (or both). I know this guy is not capable of changing who he is, so my perfect scenario is a suffocating defense and an offense just functional enough to allow us to win it all, yet cost Arians his job.

AngryAsian
11-05-2008, 09:32 PM
I just hope Ben finally relinquishes the fact that his boy Arians is not keeping him healthy. I'm also glad that there are key players in the offensive side of the ball that are noting the atrocious play calling. Arians needs to be gone in the off season. We need to spend the money and get a real stud as OC. Somebody who'll see the strengths we have in our stable and execute plays accordingly to those strengths. As far as the Ken Whisenhunt comment in the article... noteworthy, Arizona is currently #2 in total offense in the league.

stlrz d
11-05-2008, 09:43 PM
If this is publicized then it makes me wonder what isn't being publicized.

This all spells doom for Arians after this season, imo.

costanza2k1
11-05-2008, 10:29 PM
What we have to realize and hope the OC realizes this is that this Oline was built by the Chin and Colbert specifically for the run. Is it bad Oline yes and no. It was built for the run and then the play action pass. We had success passing in the 05 playoffs passing as it caught every one off guard. If we go back to the run and then sprinkle in pass it won't make the Divas happy but it will keep us in games and our winning chances increase. Bummer that Mendenhall got hurt. This little internal drama with the players wanting to run more will get interesting.

Here's a blurb from Lolly's Blog:

© There's some growing disgust in the locker room about the lack of running the team is doing. Ask a question about the running game - or lack thereof - and you'll get the company answer. But with it is an accompanying eye roll and smile that tells you all you need to know.