View Full Version : Bouchette on the Steelers: Restraint of (His) Trade

09-19-2010, 01:24 AM
Bouchette on the Steelers: Restraint of (His) Trade
The Steelers, for whatever reason, are reducing QB Dennis Dixon's chances to succeed by not letting him run
Sunday, September 19, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Here is what the Steelers' playbook title should be today in Nashville:

Run, Dennis, Run.

Quarterback Dennis Dixon ran twice in the opener, for 2 yards, one a quarterback sneak, the other a scramble. He's a proven runner and passer, but the Steelers seem to want to keep him in the pocket, not get him on the outside, even on a rollout pass.

Why not?

His defensive teammates spent much time this week talking about how dangerous Tennessee quarterback Vince Young can be; not only can he pass, but he can run.

Exactly. It is what gave many quarterbacks that extra something, such as Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Mark Brunell early on, and maybe helped put Steve Young in the Hall of Fame.

The Steelers, though, want to stop Dixon from running more than any opposing defense does. It is not because they do not think he is good at it. It is because they are worried he will get hurt.

If the Steelers design plays for Dixon to run, then "you're going to be playing with your second quarterback," coordinator Bruce Arians said.

"The guys who start in this league are a heck of a lot faster than those second- and third-string guys in the preseason," Arians said of Dixon's success running in preseason games. "They catch you.

"To design runs with just two quarterbacks, I think, is a little dangerous."

Pocket passers get hurt, too. Look at Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, two pocket passers who have had their share of injuries. Kordell Stewart rarely missed a game because of injury.

Dixon ran through the Pac-10 at Oregon for three years until he missed the final three games of his final season with a torn ACL, which can and often does happen without contact.

And, how does running and getting tackled differ from getting creamed in the pocket? The Falcons sacked Dixon three times Sunday and knocked him down on other occasions. Ben Roethlisberger gets sacked about 50 times a season.

Maybe it is fear of injury or maybe it is something entirely different -- or a combination, but the Steelers are limiting their options on offense and perhaps chances to win if they keep Dixon's legs under wraps.
Just hanging out? No way

Al Everest has taught Jeff Reed something the kicker said no special-teams coach has showed him in the past -- how to kick off.

Everest began working with Reed's kickoff approach about two weeks ago after watching and observing since Mike Tomlin hired him this year.

The tinkering resulted in hang times of between 4.0 and 4.16 seconds against Atlanta last Sunday, which Everest called outstanding.

"Anything over a 4 hang time is a very good hang time in the NFL," Everest said.

Reed always has had a strong leg kicking field goals, so it was a mystery as to why he could not duplicate that strength on kickoffs.

"Coach Al is helping me change my steps," Reed explained. "I was a little bit inconsistent with my steps. He was explaining the importance of the last three steps being your drive steps."

Previously, Reed said he used his final two steps as his drive steps. He still takes six steps on his approach, but he moved back slightly, and "I kind of start explosively instead of walking into it."

Reed has been with the Steelers since 2002 but said none of his previous special-teams coaches bothered with him much, and he said he was not blaming them.

"Most special-teams coaches don't know how to kick."

Everest said he observes other kickers and has learned from them.

"You want to look at somebody before you start throwing out answers, and I wanted to make sure the answers were right," Everest said. "He understands the concept, he's seen it work and he's done a great job of applying it."

A big concept is that kicking off is not the same as place-kicking.

"A field goal is a two-step kick, it's an accuracy kick," Everest said. "On kickoffs, you're not worried about accuracy, you're worried about acceleration of impact.

"But it's a tough thing for a kicker to do. It's why punters have a better understanding of it because they don't make a living with accuracy of field goals. You have to divorce yourself of being a field-goal kicker, because understanding that kickoff is a whole 'nother job."
The 100 Factor

Chris Johnson did not get 100 yards against the Steelers in 2008 in Tennessee, and he did not get 100 against them at Heinz Field last season. Defensive end Aaron Smith played in both games. Baltimore's Ray Rice topped 100 against the Steelers in '08, and Jacksonville's Fred Taylor topped 100 against them in '07, and Aaron Smith did not play in either game. Notice a trend there?
Factoids delivered by the NFL

The Steelers are tied for third in the AFC with 13 players who weigh more than 300 pounds. Denver is first with 15, Baltimore second with 14.

The Steelers have nine players who weigh 200 pounds or less, believe it or not. The Cincinnati Bengals lead the AFC with 12. The Steelers have 11 players under 6 feet tall, tied for third most in the AFC. The Indianapolis Colts have 13.

The University of Texas has more players in the NFL than any other college (40).

The Steelers do not have the oldest team in the league nor in the AFC. The average age of their roster is 26.43 years, which is closer to the bottom than the top because it is tied for seventh oldest in the AFC -- or seventh youngest -- and a tad below the NFL average of 26.45. The average NFL experience of their players, however, is longer than any other team in the AFC after Cleveland. The Steelers average 5.17 years of experience, the Browns 5.23. The NFL average is 4.35.

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09-19-2010, 07:45 AM
Was saying this last week. If they're not going to let him run, put Batch in! Protecting him from injury is a dumb excuse. It's football. Taking him out of his natural game is probably more dangerous than anything.

Good stuff on Reed's kickoffs. I did notice a few went into the endzone last week!