View Full Version : Steelers Look for improved running game

11-19-2009, 02:35 AM
On the Steelers: Look for improved running game
Thursday, November 19, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Guard Chris Kemoeatu likes nothing better than to block for the run. It remains his forte, a big reason Sports Illustrated chose him to its midseason All-Pro team.

"Love it," professed Kemoeatu, who goes 6 feet 3, 344 pounds.

He and others who love the Steelers' running game did not have much to like in their 18-12 loss against Cincinnati Sunday at Heinz Field. They ran 18 times, and one of those was a quarterback scramble. It is the fewest times they have run this season and their second-fewest yards at 80, 15 of those on Ben Roethlisberger's scramble.

That no longer comes as much of a surprise on an offense where balance seems to equate to 60-40 (percentage of pass plays to runs). But it could change when they pull into Kansas City for their game Sunday against the Chiefs, who rank 27th in the NFL against the run.

"I would like to hope so," Kemoeatu said. "That's what our big emphasis is this week, to get some run plays in there. Hopefully, they call it, but we just do as we're told."

The 18 runs were the fewest since they ran 17 times in a 29-22 loss at Jacksonville Dec. 16, 2007.

"I think we could have done some more things," said Rashard Mendenhall, who had 13 carries for 13 yards against the Bengals. "But they're a tough defense. I feel we'll get it going this week."

The Steelers' running plays account for only 41.3 percent of their offense, but they are about average when it comes to the entire NFL. The NFL averages 43.3 percent runs. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau remembers when those numbers were flip-flopped.

"It used to be the opposite of that," LeBeau said. "It used to be 65 percent run."

Those days are gone even in Pittsburgh, but that running game might resurface Sunday.

"We definitely have to get better, but, for whatever reason, it just didn't happen," Ward said of the team's running game against Cincinnati. "We're going to stay the course and not hit the panic button. There's still a lot of football left.

"But we need to be a balanced team. As I always preach, balanced teams -- it really makes us hard to beat when we're balanced."
Reed answers critics

Kicker Jeff Reed took issue with all those fans critical of his attempt to tackle Cincinnati rookie Bernard Scott on his way to a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday.

"I just look at those people like they don't know what they're talking about," said Reed. "I'm coached to do certain things, and the No. 1 reason I'm here is to kick kickoffs the best I can and make field goals. When it comes to making a tackle, people like [punter] Dan [Sepulveda] kind of ruin it for me because he's so athletic."

Sepulveda was a YouTube star for a jarring tackle he made on a punt return in college. He has one tackle on a punt this season. Reed has gotten near the returnman on two of the three kickoff returns for touchdowns in the past four games without making a tackle.

He said he has made about eight tackles through the years and missed four, but he also said he actually did his job Sunday on that kickoff return.

"That was about a 50-yard sprint for me, and my job is to make him cut back inside and he went inside of me," Reed said. "Looking back at the play, if I'd have slowed down a little bit I maybe could have dove in his path a little better. For me, that was fast, and I was cutting him off. I thought we had a chance to get him, and we didn't get him down."
Something was missing

Santonio Holmes is off to his best start with 678 yards receiving, on pace for 1,205, yet he has just one touchdown catch.

After a dreadful passing performance against Cincinnati Sunday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was at a loss to explain what happened.

"There was something missing all day; I don't know what it was," Roethlisberger said. "I don't know if it was the weather in November or what it was. Seemed like even the crowd at the beginning, everyone was just kind of different."

Roethlisberger's view of the offense from Sunday was mentioned to Holmes, who said, "I mean, he's the quarterback. He has control over everything, you know -- who touches the ball, he dictates where the ball goes. And, if he felt that way, that's probably why we didn't win the ballgame."
Kick-coverage update

The Steelers inserted Donovan Woods into their kick-coverage game to replace Arnold Harrison, but they have made no other noticeable change in personnel. The only two starters on offense or defense on the kickoff team are cornerbacks William Gay and Ike Taylor.

"They don't let me play special teams any more," cracked safety Ryan Clark. "There's a rule, you have to have a spleen and a gall bladder, at least one, to be a part of special teams."
Gatewood on practice squad

Curtis Gatewood, a linebacker from Vanderbilt, was signed to take Woods' vacated spot on the practice squad.

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11-20-2009, 11:20 AM
I didn't realize that Kemo was named a mid-season All-Pro in SI (not that it really means anything, but what are the chances that Chris Kemoeatu would be the only Steeler recognized as such?)


Midseason All-Pro Team & Awards

Lots of new faces on the midseason All-Pro team, and lots of tough choices. Hard to leave off Adrian Peterson, because I believe he's the best running back in football, hands down. Hard to leave off defensive end Trent Cole of the Eagles, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton of the Falcons and Owen Daniels of the Texans, too; Daniels had six terrific games before going out for the season. But I tried to recognize some new men playing very well, and I look forward to hearing your nominations.


WR Vincent Jackson Chargers
At 6-foot-5, he plays jump ball with cornerbacks and wins.

LT Ryan Clady Broncos
Franchise tackle is Mike Shanahan's gift to Josh McDaniels.

LG Chris Kemoeatu Steelers
Feisty steamroller. Pittsburgh needs more like him.

C Nick Mangold Jets
Technically excellent leader for top NFL running game.

RG Jahri Evans Saints
Underrated and adaptable to multiple New Orleans schemes.

RT Michael Oher Ravens
Rookie who can't be intimidated. Quick feet. Will get stronger.

TE Dallas Clark Colts
Indy G.M. Bill Polian: "I'd argue he's our MVP."

WR Andre Johnson Texans
Matt Schaub's go-to guy dominates with speed and muscle.

QB Peyton Manning Colts
First QB ever with 300-plus yards in seven of first eight games.

RB Chris Johnson Titans
More explosive than Adrian Peterson through season's first half.

FB Heath Evans Saints
Sledgehammer for New Orleans' run game until injured in Week 7.


DE Jared Allen Vikings
NFL's most disruptive defender had 71/2 sacks in two games against Pack.

DT Kevin Williams Vikings
Think of a better DE-DT combo in last 10 years.

NT Aubrayo Franklin 49ers
Does NT's job: occupies two blockers every week.

DE Dwight Freeney Colts
Career year? Eight straight games with at least one sack.

OLB Elvis Dumervil Broncos
Good move having him drop weight, move to OLB.

M/ILB Patrick Willis 49ers
Ray Lewis's closest heir among young crop of MLBs.

M/ILB David Harris Jets
The kind of sideline-to-sideline force that Rex Ryan loves.

CB Darrelle Revis Jets
Erased Andre Johnson, Randy Moss in first two weeks.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha Raiders
Highest-paid corner in history is playing like it.

FS Darren Sharper Saints
As many interceptions (seven) as 17 teams.

SS Brandon Meriweather Patriots
Starting to play with the instinct of Rodney Harrison.


KR Percy Harvin Vikings
Supplanted Devin Hester as league's most dangerous WR/KR.

PR Josh Cribbs Browns
Best special-teamer in football is best player in Cleveland.

K Stephen Gostkowski Patriots
No one in New England is pining for Adam Vinatieri.

P Shane Lechler Raiders
52.3-yard average leads league by 4.0 yards.

First-Half Awards

Peyton Manning Colts
Drew Brees has a superb running game, Manning does not.

Offensive player
Matt Schaub Texans
Upset special: leads NFL in yards, AFC in TD passes.

Defensive player
Jared Allen Vikings
Devastating edge player has 10 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles.

Offensive rookie
Percy Harvin Vikings
Florida product has three touchdown catches, two returns for scores.

Defensive rookie
Brian Cushing Texans
Like rookie DeMeco Ryans in '06, making a mega impact at LB in Houston.

Brett Favre Vikings
From May arm surgery to phenomenal 16-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Josh McDaniels Broncos
The biggest surprise of the season's first half is Denver atop the AFC West.

Gregg Williams Saints
Defensive improvement has given New Orleans much-needed balance.

Assistant coach
Aaron Kromer Saints
Behind his rebuilt O-line, New Orleans has jumped from 28th to seventh in rushing.

Bill Polian Colts
Draft savvy is paying off with '09 fourth-rounder Austin Collie, '08 sixth-rounder Pierre Garçon.

And, Bouchette, Mendenhall had 13 carries for 36 yards in this past game, not 13 for 13. The Post-Gazette needs a fact checker.