View Full Version : Steelers' favorite could work against Browns

10-18-2009, 03:06 AM
Steelers' favorite could work against Browns

By Mark Kaboly, Daily News Sports Editor
Sunday, October 18, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 48499.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_648499.html)

It is hard to imagine Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians diagramming a run play such as the "Packers Sweep" legendary coach Vince Lombardi drew up more than 40 years ago.

More known for his wide-open style of offense, Arians loves the big play.

Ironically, the play that has gained the most yards consistently this season is a run.

The Steelers' Counter 34 Pike has accounted for some big gains through the first third of the season and has propelled their running game from pathetic to respectable.

"It's one of our strengths," right guard Trai Essex said. "It is one of the plays we practice a lot and have a lot of success running. It is a play to go to when we need six or seven yards."

And it could be a major problem for the Cleveland Browns, who take on the Steelers today at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.

Three of the Steelers' five longest runs this year have come from the Counter-34 Pike.

Through five games, the Steelers are 21st in the league in rushing, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. They have run the Pike play 25 times for 180 yards, which is 7.2 per carry. All the other run plays have gone for a 3.1 average.

"It was our go-to play last year, too," Arians said. "We have two plays what we call Pike, and those are our bread and butter."

In its simplest form, the play has the right side of the line tackle Willie Colon and Essex double-teaming the defensive tackle then one scraping off to get a linebacker; tight end Heath Miller kicking out the defensive end; left tackle Max Starks taking care of the right defensive end; and left guard Chris Kemoeatu pulling between the right guard/tackle hole just outside the back shoulder of Colon. Center Justin Hartwig blocks the defensive tackle or nose guard, depending on the front.

"Most of the time, it works out for us," Colon said.

It worked pretty well a few years back during Super Bowl XL. Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half came on the Counter-34 Pike. That still stands as the longest run in Super Bowl history.

"It has always been one of our big plays," Parker said. "When you have a big fellow like Juicy (Kemoeatu) out there, anything can happen."

Said Miller: "Sometimes when there is no hole, (Kemoeatu) blows a hole open."

Kemoeatu, who is 6-foot4 and 344 pounds, is the key to the play. His job is to blow up either the defensive end, the linebacker inside the hole or the safety coming down for run support.

"Chris is extremely athletic," Colon said. "When he turns that corner, he can redirect when a guy is trying to beat him up the field. That opens up the hole."

Hartwig agrees.

"One of Chris' strengths is pulling and kicking guys out," Hartwig said. "We like our deuce (double team) blocks at the point of attack on that play. It is something that we have gone to when we needed some yards."

The play is not fool proof. It has worked extremely well against the Bears and Chargers and not as well against the Titans and Bengals. Arians only called in once against the Lions.

Against the Bears, the play accounted for 87 of the Steelers' 105 yards rushing, including Rashard Mendenhall's career-long run of 39 yards.

Two weeks later, the Steelers broke the game open late with the Counter 34 Pike with a 32-yard run followed by a 22-yarder in the next series.

Arians isn't afraid to use it multiple times in the same series.

"That is a lot of plays with B.A.," Colon said. "He is going to go with it until you stop it."

Arians has a plan for when to use the play. It hasn't worked to the left at all this season going for only two yards in eight attempts and doesn't work well against a 4-3 defense. Last week, he called the play once, and it went for six yards.

"In a straight 4-3 defense, it is an adverse play - it is just a nickel play," Arians said. "In all other defenses, it is an every-down play. It is a blocking scheme that is only good against certain fronts."

The Browns who use a 3-4 defense are last in the league in rush defense, allowing 170 yards a game, which means ...

"It will be a solid play for us this week,'' Arians said.