Going fullback in time
There are strong opinions when the topic of a Steelers fullback is broached, and what that position means to the team's running game. Many call the use of a pure blocking fullback "Steelers football," as if that is how they've played the game for years.
That style of offense, however, is only of more recent Steelers vintage.
It was not until Tim Lester joined the team in 1995 that they began using a pure lead blocker at fullback
, and Lester did not play much that Super Bowl season. John L. Williams was used more at fullback in '95; he was not a pure blocker but more of the type of fullback who caught passes and ran with the ball. Williams actually led the team in '94 with 51 receptions, a year in which he also ran for 317 yards on 68 carries.
Chuck Noll's teams rarely used someone in the backfield merely to block
. Under his split-back offense, Noll's fullbacks were the lead runners, not blockers. Franco Harris was the fullback in Noll's offenses. Merrill Hoge led the Steelers three times in rushing by '90 yet by '92 he was used as the "fullback" by Bill Cowher's offensive coordinator, Ron Erhardt, and not their lead runner. Hoge remained in that role until Williams joined them in '94.
So it was only in '96 that the Steelers began adopting the idea of using a true blocker at fullback
, starting with Lester, moving on to Jon Witman and then to Dan Kreider. The position morphed to the point that the coaches rarely considered their fullback for anything other than to block. In 2004 when the Steelers rediscovered their ground game and averaged 154 yards rushing, Kreider ran four times for 18 yards.
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at http://www.post-gazette.com/plus
. Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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