View Full Version : Steelers TE Miller attempts to boost offense

10-01-2011, 01:48 AM
Steelers TE Miller attempts to boost offense
Saturday, October 1, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 59665.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_759665.html)

The role of an NFL tight end continues to evolve, as increasingly complex offenses demand a more versatile athlete with equally adept blocking skills and pass-catching abilities.

There are few Kellen Winslows gifted tight ends with remarkable hands and run-blocking skills. There are fewer John Mackeys strong, fast tight ends who bore through defenders without flinching.

Heath Miller, the Steelers' steady yet hardly flashy tight end, is neither Winslow nor Mackey. But he is reliable and efficient. Miller, said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, "is my comfort blanket."

The Steelers were comfortable and confident with Miller when they inked him to a five-year deal worth $35.3 million in 2009, making him among the highest-paid players at the position.

Even though the Steelers are 2-1 heading into their Sunday matchup with the Houston Texans (2-1) at Reliant Stadium, their running game is stuck in neutral. Most fingers are pointing at a dysfunctional offensive line, but Miller is feeling the heat, too.

"Our (tight ends) group takes a lot of pride in being able to do both blocking and catching," said Miller, who caught five of the six passes thrown to him in a 23-20 win at Indianapolis last week. "We need to do both for us to be productive offensively.

"We understand we've got to get better running the ball. Fortunately for us, it's early in the season."

Miller admits he must do more to impact an uneven offense one that faltered at Baltimore but stampeded the Seattle Seahawks.

Miller was most effective in the middle of the field in Indianapolis. But his most productive game of the season was overshadowed by a ground game that was embarrassingly inefficient in averaging 2.4 yards per carry.

The Texans, led by outside linebacker Mario Williams, are expected to jam the line of scrimmage and dare the Steelers to beat them deep with receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, who had an 81-yard touchdown reception against the Colts.

"(Wallace) is such a playmaker, so it gives them opportunities to make plays, and that's what they've been doing," said Houston coach Gary Kubiak. "Yet, I think we all know they can line up any given day and just run it right at you."

If the Steelers insist on pounding the ball down the Texans throat, Heath Miller and fellow tight end David Johnson must step up. The Steelers have used both sparingly as H-backs, but that could change because the offensive line isn't getting the surge required to create seams for Mendenhall and Isaac Redman to run through.

"When you have a tight end who can play fullback ... it just gives you so much of an advantage against a defensive signal caller," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Arians insisted Miller is among the "true tight ends" in the league and added there "are few Heath Millers."

However, Miller's role is somewhat ambiguous. Roethlisberger practically ignored him the first two games before rekindling their connection at Indianapolis.

"Heath has been the go-to guy over the years," Roethlisberger said. "He's a guy you can always count on.

"We always want to keep (Miller) involved because the tight ends are huge for this offense. Houston has a good defense, so the tight ends and the offensive line have to do a good job."

"There are a lot of guys capable of making plays," Miller said. "However it shakes out, we'll be able to move the ball."

The Miller file

Name: Heath Miller

Position: Tight end

Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 256 pounds

Age: 28

2010 stats: 43 receptions, 512 yards, 2 TDs

2011 stats: 9 receptions, 129 yards

Career highlights: Signed a six-year, $35.3 million contract. The deal included a $12.5 million signing bonus and $3.386 million this season ... ranks second all-time among Steelers tight ends with 295 receptions and 3,362 receiving yards ... The Steelers are 20-6 when Miller scores at least one touchdown.

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10-01-2011, 01:55 AM
Steelers RB Moore gets more from less than most
Saturday, October 01, 2011
By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... /steelers/ (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/)
The Steelers signed running back Mewelde Moore almost as an afterthought this summer. Third-string running backs and special teams players don't command much attention in the free-agent market, and Moore was no exception.

He signed his new contract three days into training camp, well after the Steelers had their priority free agents under contract. They know they are getting plenty of bang for their buck with Moore.

For someone who isn't a major part of the game plan from week to week, Moore always seems to make impact plays when his teammates need him most.

He did it again Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. When the Steelers found themselves in a 20-20 deadlock with 2:09 remaining, they called on Moore to get them in position to win.

Moore accounted for 31 of the 60 yards on the winning field-goal drive. He got things started with a 22-yard reception on the fourth play. Later, he ran twice for 9 yards to get Shaun Suisham in position to boot the 38-yard field goal with four seconds left.

"We all have a great deal of confidence in him simply because he's done it for us time and time again," tight end Heath Miller said. "Whoever is in the backfield, we know they can get the job done, but it happens to be Mewelde most often in those situations. He's able to make a play to spark us and come up big for us."

Other than Ben Roethlisberger, there might not be another player who has come through in clutch situations more consistently the past few years. Upon arriving in Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2008, it took Moore all of four games to make his presence felt.

Moore touched the ball five times on a six-play overtime drive Sept. 29, 2008, that resulted in a Jeff Reed field goal for a 23-20 home victory against Baltimore. The big play was a 24-yard reception on third-and-8 to the Ravens 31. Three plays later, after two rushes netted minus-4 yards, Moore caught a 7-yard pass from Roethlisberger to the 28 to set up Reed's 46-yard field goal.

That victory was one of five the Steelers won by five points or fewer that season, which ended with their sixth Super Bowl title.

Last season, Moore helped the Steelers win late in Miami, another victory that helped pave the way to a Super Bowl appearance. Trailing, 22-20, late in the game, Moore caught a 29-yard pass on third-and-5 to get the Steelers to the Miami 14. Five plays later, after a controversial ruling on a Roethlisberger fumble into the end zone, Reed kicked an 18-yard field goal. The Steelers won, 23-22.

"I take great pride in it," Moore said. "I love competing and I love the pressure. Pressure is a great place for me. I've been able to thrive in it. I continue to embrace it. I love it."

Before making it big as a receiver, Hines Ward once was a reserve and special teams player, and he said he has a great appreciation for Moore's ability to thrive in those situations. Against the Colts, Moore did not touch the ball until the final drive.

"He's a guy who rarely gets a lot of opportunities, but he just makes the most of them," Ward said. "Every time you see him come into the game, he's always making plays for us. Rarely do you see him not make a play or come through for us. He's a special guy. "

Moore's clutch play in two-minute situations goes back to his college days at Tulane. He said former Green Wave coach Chris Scelfo used a similar two-minute offensive scheme, and there has been a comfort level for Moore since he joined the Steelers.

"I think it's just one of those creatures of habit deals," Moore said. "Just from playing in a similar two-minute style that we played when I was at Tulane. Being able to take that and understand the importance of hurrying up and moving the ball, having an awareness."
Farrior is fined

Linebacker James Farrior was fined $15,000 by the NFL for a hit Sunday night on Indianapolis quarterback Kerry Collins.

In the third quarter, Farrior hit Collins after he released the ball but was not penalized. Collins later left the game with concussion symptoms.

Farrior said he had been expecting to hear from the league about the play, but thought he had escaped a fine when he was not contacted by Thursday. Farrior was informed of the fine as he walked off the practice field Friday afternoon.

He does not believe the hit warranted a fine.

"I don't think so, but the league saw it necessary to put the fine out there, so we just have to go with it," he said.

Farrior's agent, Ralph Cindrich, said the fine will be appealed.

Farrior believes the league acted because Collins had to leave the game. The league has been trying to come down hard on hits to the head and late hits that can result in head injuries.

"No doubt about it," Farrior said. "With everything that's going on now, I think that's what happened.
Scott, Legursky out

Starting right guard Doug Legursky (shoulder) and starting left tackle Jonathan Scott (ankle) did not practice again Friday and have been ruled out for the game Sunday at Houston. Defensive end Brett Keisel (knee) also has been ruled out.

Ramon Foster is expected to start at right guard for Legursky and Trai Essex at left tackle for Scott.

Reserve linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) is listed as questionable.

Receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Arnaz Battle (knee) and defensive tackle Steve McClendon (illness) are listed as probable.

Texans running back Derrick Ward (ankle and shoulder) has been ruled out. Cornerback Sherrick McManis (hamstring) is listed as doubtful. Cornerback Kareem Jackson (knee) is questionable. Among those Texans listed as probable are running back Arian Foster (hamstring), receiver Andre Johnson (knee, toe) and linebacker Mario Williams (knee).

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10-01-2011, 02:02 AM
Wallace on a hot streak
September 30, 2011
The Altoona Mirror
http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/conte ... ml?nav=753 (http://www.altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/554055/Wallace-on-a-hot-streak.html?nav=753)

PITTSBURGH - Even if it might just be his greatest asset, Mike Wallace does little to help his own cause.

The Steelers third-year receiver just can't help himself. To him, hey, "An apple is an apple. You know what I'm saying?"

Wallace tells anyone who asks he's the fastest player in the NFL.

"I've always been feeling like that," Wallace said, matter-of-factly. "I'm still feeling like that, and I don't see anything changing."

Opposing cornerbacks who have faced him won't argue. After an electrifying five-catch, 144-yard performance in a 23-20 win in Indianapolis on Sunday that included a career-long 81-yard touchdown, Wallace is second in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for third in receptions.

The secret might be getting out on Wallace emerging as one of the league's best receivers. And Wallace does little to keep his 4.2-speed quiet, either. The irony is that it's the surprise factor that some say has helped Wallace run past so many defensive backs in his first three seasons as a pro.

"We know it because we play against him all the time," said Pittsburgh cornerback Bryant McFadden, who concurred Wallace's assertion he's the fastest in the league. "A lot of [opposing] guys, I think they get into a situation where they see it on film and they say, 'Oh, we play against fast guys all the time.' No, not Mike Wallace fast. And they really don't respect it like they should until 80 yards later ... it's a touchdown.

"He's a tremendously super, super fast guy."

Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he scripts about five "home run" plays per game in an effort to take advantage of Wallace's speed - "and I don't like to come home with any of them not being called," he added.

Wallace led the NFL in yards per reception as a rookie and was second in the league in that category last season, when he had 60 receptions for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Dating back to the final three games of last season, Wallace has at least 100 receiving yards in six consecutive regular-season games. That's a Steelers record, and Wallace can tie the NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard receiving game 1 p.m. Sunday when Pittsburgh (2-1) plays at Houston (2-1).

Still, through it all, somehow Wallace seems to sneak up on opposing defenses - before he runs right past them.

"I think he keeps surprising people that don't see him a lot," Arians said. "Last year, as the games went on, more and more people played deeper and deeper on him (later in the season)."

With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Texans' defense the Steelers will face Sunday prefers man-to-man coverage on receivers, perhaps giving Wallace another opportunity for a big play.

Wallace, who sustained a minor rib injury in the Colts game but is fully practicing this week and will play against the Texans, has 21 catches for 377 yards and two touchdowns through three games.

"I've always believed in myself; it was just I had to go through the draft process where it really hurt," Wallace said of falling to the third round of the 2009 draft. "You don't just become a baller overnight. I had two great teachers in (Santonio Holmes) and (Hines Ward) when I first got here, that really helped my development, helped me develop a little faster.

"I'm just learning how to play football."

Indeed, Wallace didn't take up the sport permanently until his junior year of high school growing up in New Orleans. "I'd rather go home after school and chill and watch TV than go to football practice," Wallace said of the teenage version of himself.

But did you use your God-given speed and run track?

"Not until my senior year."

Did you at least challenge other kids to playground races on a bet?

"Oh no, nobody wanted to bet me. They knew they'd never beat me. They knew what it was, even back then."

Now, the entire NFL is beginning to learn, too.

And despite coach Mike Tomlin's playful nickname for Wallace of "one-trick" - a reference to the fact he can only go deep and is not yet a complete receiver - the former Ole Miss standout is proving he is anything but.

"He doesn't really call me that anymore," Wallace said, smiling. "He knows I've got sick moves and stuff, so he knows what's up.

"He's just trying to keep me grounded, but he knows I've got a bag full of tricks. A whole bag."

Someday, maybe Wallace can approach the longevity and sustained success his mentor, Ward, has. In his 14th NFL season, Ward is the league's active leader among wide receivers in catches and yardage.

Wallace is a long way from the 966 career receptions and 11,819 yards Ward owns, but, as should come as no surprise, Wallace doesn't shy away from shooting for big numbers.

Just last month at Latrobe, Pa., during Steelers training camp, Wallace said his goal for the season was 2,000 receiving yards.

That would establish a new NFL record, but Wallace repeatedly refused to back down from the prediction.

Don't look now, but three games into the season, Wallace is on pace to do just that. Averaging 125.7 receiving yards per game through three contests, Wallace is on a pace to reach 2,010 yards by season's end.

"Too bad we've got 13 more to go," Wallace said in a rare moment of understated humility, his eyes wide and shaking his head at the challenge in front of him.

Arians isn't quite counting Wallace out just yet.

"As long as he can stay healthy and keep playing," he said, "I think he will continue to get his yards."

10-01-2011, 05:25 PM
"When you have a tight end who can play fullback ... it just gives you so much of an advantage against a defensive signal caller," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

And guess, what, Brucie ... when you have an actual fullback end who can play fullback ... it just gives you so much of an advantage in short yardage situations, where we just so happen to suck out loud. :roll:

10-01-2011, 06:33 PM
It wou;d be nice if they had soem quick release plays that were not bubble screens to Hines.

10-01-2011, 08:47 PM
What we need is a Fullback that can play tight end

10-01-2011, 09:20 PM
What we need is a Fullback that can play tight end

Bruce Arians: "There's no fullback in my offense, there's never going to be one.


10-01-2011, 09:24 PM
What we need is a Fullback that can play tight end

Bruce Arians: "There's no fullback in my offense, there's never going to be one.

:HeadBanger :HeadBanger :HeadBanger :HeadBanger :HeadBanger :HeadBanger

10-01-2011, 09:51 PM
First & Ten: Mike Wallace
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/steel ... 0f497.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/steelers/first-ten-mike-wallace/article_1cd95b32-9ea2-5733-8f87-c60e4bc0f497.html)

Posted: Saturday, October 1, 2011 5:44 pm | Updated: 5:55 pm, Sat Oct 1, 2011.

By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | 0 comments

The Steelers' star wide receiver took some time before practice this week to answer these decidedly non-football questions from Times pro football writer Mike Bires

As a youngster, who was your favorite athlete?

"Jerry Rice ... because he played the position I always wanted to play and because he was the best. No one could stop him. He was a super hero to a lot of kids."

Is there a reason why you wear jersey No. 17?

"I wore No. 1 in high school and No. 2 at Ole Miss. But receivers can't wear those numbers in the NFL. So I asked for 12, and they almost killed me because that's Terry Bradshaw's number. I should have done a little more research. I didn't know they won't give out certain numbers (of ex-Steeler greats). They wanted to give me 87, but I didn't want 87. So we settled on 17."

When you're back home in New Orleans, where do you take friends when they come to visit?

"Anywhere downtown, but most definitely the French Quarter ... it's got a real New Orleans feel. There are some great restaurants in town."

You live in downtown Pittsburgh during the season. Do you have a favorite restaurant in town?

"I love Capital Grille. And I'll go to Benihana (in Greentree) sometimes."

What's your least favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?

"The weather ... I hate the cold. You know, I've been living in the South my whole life. The winters are just killing me."

If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, who would it be?

"Seven bad chicks like Beyonce and Halle Berry. I don't know who they'd all be. I would have to sit down and figure out which seven. But it would be seven of the baddest chicks in the world."

What kind of car do you drive?

"A 550 Mercedes-Benz. It's a great car. But it might be time for a new ride."

What's your favorite TV show?

"(ESPN's) SportsCenter. I like watching all the highlights."

What achievement in your life are you most proud of?

"When I had my baby girl, Maliha. She's a little over a year old now. Now, I have somebody depending on me to take care of her. I've got to be able to get her anything she wants."

When you're done playing football, what can you see yourself doing with your life?

"I majored in African-American studies at Ole Miss. So maybe I'll be a teacher. But that's a long way down the road. Stay tuned."

10-01-2011, 11:23 PM
Can't disagree with his choice of restaurants.

10-02-2011, 12:49 AM
When Miller retires, he will go down as one of the most talented players for the Steelers who's talent was the most ignored and wasted. It's a tragedy really.

10-02-2011, 02:26 AM
Today's tight ends: Lean, small, quick
Sunday, October 02, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As general manager of the New York Giants, Jerry Reese knows how a real tight end should look. If he isn't reminded by the pictures of former Giants tight end Mark Bavaro that hang in the team's new stadium, all he has to do is ask coach Tom Coughlin or some of his assistant coaches.

"If you ask our coaching staff what do you want for a tight end, they want a 280-pound guy who runs a 4.5 and catches the ball like Jerry Rice," Reese said. "Well, those guys aren't out there."

Maybe that explains why the NFL is quickly becoming a breeding ground for a new type of tight end that, for the most part, looks nothing like Bavaro or John Mackey or even Mike Ditka. They are leaner, faster and more athletic, and they are populating rosters from Foxborough, Mass., to San Francisco.

The New England Patriots, who have the most explosive passing attack in the NFL, utilize two second-year tight ends who epitomize the new wave -- Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The leading receiver for the New York Jets is not one of their three big-name wide receivers but an undersized tight end named Dustin Keller.

No longer are Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons and Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers among the few pass-catching tight ends who look like a power forward (even though they were) and catch balls like a center fielder. Now, it seems, every team has at least one smaller, quicker, more athletic tight end. And some teams, such as the Patriots and Houston Texans, have two.

"The days of the Mark Bavaros and those type guys, those guys are few and far between now," said Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. "I think Dustin [Keller] is more of the newer breed where you almost treat him as a wideout."

If Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts and Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers started the wave of the flex tight end -- players who are more like oversized wide receivers -- then players such as Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers and Brandon Pettigrew of the Detroit Lions are further reshaping the body type and role responsibilities of the new-age tight end.

It is difficult to determine if this trend is a byproduct of the way the NFL has evolved into a pass-oriented league where the best teams are the ones who can throw for a lot of yardage. Or because the spread offense in college football has all but eliminated the need for larger, pass-blocking tight end. At the very least, it has made the draft stock less plentiful.

"It's hard to find a guy who can block and catch," said Charlie Casserly, a CBS studio analyst and former general manager of the Texans and Washington Redskins. "There's not a lot of them there. You have to take what's there. That's what you're getting out of the colleges -- you're getting the more athletic tight ends.

"But that's just part of it. It's always been a hard position to find. We're looking for Superman -- the guy who can go down the middle of field and block -- and he doesn't exist."
New breed everywhere

When the Steelers (2-1) play the Houston Texans (2-1) at 1 p.m. today at Reliant Stadium, there will be enough tight ends on the field to start a convention. Each team routinely uses two, and sometimes three, tight ends in their offense, a sign of the times in the NFL.

And they come in all shapes and sizes, performing hybrid roles in which they line up all over the field, sometimes acting like a wide receiver and other times lining as a fullback. It is the new breed of tight end in the NFL, and they are everywhere you look.

"It's just the flexibility of the position," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, a big advocate of multiple-tight end formations. "The tight end who plays fullback, the tight end who plays wide receiver, it gives you so much of an advantage versus a defensive signal-caller. He has his best calls for a personnel group, so when you have a tight end staying in, doing all those jobs, it's a huge advantage for the offense."

To be sure, there are still remnants of the prototypical, Bavaro-like tight end -- players who can block and catch. But there aren't many. Tony Gonzalez, who spent 12 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before moving to Atlanta, might be the best example. And, in the opinion of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Heath Miller of the Steelers is another---- an outstanding in-line blocker who had five catches for 71 yards in last week's victory in Indianapolis.

Nonetheless, scouts and general managers no longer look for blocking tight ends who they believe they can teach to catch. They look for receiving tight ends who they believe they can teach to block.

"What I think is the guy who can do everything, who can block on the line of scrimmage and run like a wide receiver and catch like a lot of backs, they're hard to find, those total packages," Reese said the other day on the phone. "Some teams have the smaller type, the H-back tight ends. The Jets have a smaller tight end; the Colts have a smaller tight end; Chris Cooney in Washington, those kinds of guys. Then you see guys who are gigantic, like offensive tackles. It's tough to find a combination who can do all that, the Tony Gonzalez-type guy."

Used to be, the tight end was just a last resort for the quarterback if every other receiver was covered. Now, the tight end is a primary target for many teams, even the Steelers.

For proof, take a look at the top receivers around the league after three games. In the NFC, six of the top 17 and nine of the top 26 pass-catchers are tight ends. In the AFC, five of the top 24 are tight ends.

That doesn't even include the two who play for the Texans -- Owen Daniels and the multidimensional James Casey -- who have combined for 17 catches, 268 yards and three touchdowns in three games. Casey, in particular, is especially versatile. He will also line as an H-back and fullback and can run, throw and catch.

Like the Steelers, the Texans also like to utilize a third tight end -- Joel Dreessen (6-4, 245), who has two catches for 30 yards.

"I think with the numbers you have in this league, you suit up 46 guys on game day now. I think all coaches, whether offensively or defensively, are looking for versatile players that give you the ability to be creative and do more things with guys that are capable of playing in various offensive and defensive schemes," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "Our guys are kind of like that."

Arians has always kept three tight ends on the Steelers roster since becoming offensive coordinator in 2007, and he often uses all three -- Miller, David Johnson and undrafted rookie Wes Saunders -- on the field at the same time. Using multiple tight ends at the same time is also a growing trend.

Last year, 11 teams used two tight ends for at least 45 percent of their plays, a number that will likely grow this season. Miller said the Steelers use him and Johnson almost all the time on first and second down, even if that includes lining Johnson as the H-back.

"I think it's more talent-driven than people trying to start a trend with it," Casserly said. "A lot of times it's what you have. Some tight ends are good receiving tight ends and some tight ends are blocking tight ends. Most people want a receiving tight end. It's hard to find a blocking tight end. Most times you get a receiving tight end and you try to teach him to block."
The Steelers' fault

Why are so many teams using two or three tight ends at the same time?

Blame it on the Steelers.

The advent of the 3-4 defense is one reason so many teams use multiple tight end formations. Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs thought the best attack to neutralize the 3-4 was to use two tight ends to block the outside linebackers.

Also, it created more mismatches in the secondary because the tight end is usually bigger than the safety and faster than a linebacker.

With more teams using the 3-4 defense, the number of teams using two- and three-tight end formations is likely to increase.

"When two tight ends are on the field, if you want, you can balance the formation and defense has to chose a strength," Miller said. "When you're in a traditional I-formation, it's obvious the strength is to one side -- the side the tight end is on. The defense can set its strength.

"When you're in a two-by-two formation, where you're even on both sides, if they rotate a safety down one side, you have the capabilities of checking to a play and running away from it pretty easy."

The best offenses in the NFL are very good at creating and exploiting mismatches. And probably no player on the field can create more mismatches than the tight end, especially an athletic one. The Patriots did that to the Steelers last year when Gronkowski caught three touchdowns in an easy victory at Heinz Field.

"Their skill set is not the same anymore," safety Ryan Clark said. "Guys are trying to be more athletic. You're seeing guys who are big receivers move to tight end where they feel it's a better matchup problem. Before, where they couldn't outrun a corner, now they can outrun linebackers and they're too big for defensive backs. And coaches have started to utilize that."

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