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fordfixer
02-04-2010, 09:18 PM
Bettis: Steelers will hit their stride if they run the ball
Thursday, February 04, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10035/10 ... z0eZQeyWAL (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10035/1033336-66.stm#ixzz0eZQeyWAL)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jerome Bettis weaved through traffic at the Super Bowl as if he never retired from the game, although he was stopped a few times Wednesday.

The field spread before him was the famous "radio row" at the Super Bowl media headquarters, where Bettis hopped from station to station as a pitchman for Monster.com this week. The jobs he wanted to talk about most, though, belong to the Steelers, specifically those who work on their running game.

The Bus did not need team president Art Rooney II to inform him the Steelers need a better running game if they are to return to the Super Bowl.

"The problem the Steelers have is they weren't built to throw the football 40 times," said Bettis, who keeps close tabs on his former team and maintains a presence in Pittsburgh during the football season with his weekly show on ESPN Radio 1250. "They are built to run the football. You have these big guards, these big tackles, these guys go forward better than they go back. So you got to let them go forward and be the offensive line they can be. What that does, it makes the passing game even that much more lethal."
Sunday

The good news, Bettis said, is not only do the Steelers have the pieces in place, but they do not need to change much to improve the run. It was a good thing they kept Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator and now all they need to do is "tweak" some things on offense, Bettis added.

"They have work to do, they're not in trouble, though. I think the only thing that needed to happen was emphasis needed to be put back on the running game. I think that's being done.

"There were a couple games last year they weren't able to close out and win because they couldn't pound the ball in the fourth quarter and close out the games. And it cost them, it cost them an opportunity to make the playoffs."

The Steelers ran nearly 60 percent of the time in 2004 when they became the first AFC team to win 15 regular-season games.

But they have an accomplished quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, so there is no need to go back to that heavy of a dose of the run, according to the Bus.

"I think it was a good move to have Arians back. All it needs is tweaking. It doesn't need a total overhaul. And if you would overhaul that, it would be a mistake. Ben is maturing into one of the best passers in the game. Now the running game has to develop.

"If the running game develops, now you have an offense that is close to unstoppable."

Unstoppable?

"Because you can pound the football, but you also have the ability to throw the football with the receivers and quarterback you have," Bettis explained. "So you're never out of a game and you always put pressure on a defense because of your ability to run and pass.

"If they can get back to closer to 50-50 -- not even 50-50 but closer to 50-50 -- then this team becomes dominant, because the defense is always going to be good."

Bettis recalled the 2004 training camp when Bill Cowher promoted Ken Whisenhunt to offensive coordinator after the Buffalo Bills hired Mike Mularkey as head coach. In 2003, Cowher and Mularkey changed the Steelers' offense to the Tommy Gun to their everlasting dismay. They promoted Amos Zereoue to starting halfback over Bettis because they felt he more suited their new plan to become a passing team behind quarterback Tommy Maddox.

The Steelers went 6-10 in 2003 and Cowher ordered a return to the running game.

"It starts with a philosophy," Bettis said. "When you go to training camp you say, 'We're going to run the football.' That's exactly what we did. There was a great example of that when we got to the goal-line drills. We ran the ball all four times."

And that was just with the first team. The second team followed suit, and when the Steelers had their second live goal-line drill in their 2004 camp, it was all run again. Even during practice, there were more of the so-called "middle drills," which were all run.

"It was the mindset that we are going to run the football and that was never more evident than in training camp," Bettis said. "And what that did was send a message and set the tone, that 'We are running the ball, gentlemen. So guys up front, get ready for it.' "

Bettis believes the 2010 Steelers can become even more formidable on offense than the 2004 team or his last one in 2005 that ended with a Super Bowl victory in his hometown of Detroit.

"I'm happy they didn't make a knee-jerk reaction and lose Arians because I really think Ben understands the philosophy and Bruce knows what Ben is good at and he knows what he's not good at. He makes sure the plays they run have the possibility of success.

"They were explosive this year and that was great to see. All you have to do is add the running game and I think this can become one of the dominant teams the Steelers ever had -- if they can do it."

His bottom-line message to them: "You go into training camp and you say, "We ... are ... going ... to ... run ... the ... football."

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