Steelers' offense will come to pass
Thursday, October 02, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Out of cash? Use the credit card. Snow blower down? Shovel. No flights available? Drive.
Your top running backs injured? Throw the ball.
It does not take a football genius to decipher what the Steelers have to do on offense Sunday night in Jacksonville without Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall and Carey Davis.
"Shoot, when you lose your starting running back, you lose your first-round running back, you lose your starting fullback/running back?" Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes asked out loud yesterday. "I mean, what else is there for you to do? You can only throw the ball and hope someone comes in and fills in, like Mewelde did."
Mewelde Moore, the only healthy running back left on the roster early Tuesday morning, has been supplemented by the return of Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell this week. Since a badly hobbling Davis does not appear ready to return this week, tight end Sean McHugh will replace him when they need a fullback.
Ben Roethlisberger does not have a 200-yard passing game this season, and, if he does not after five games, it won't be for a lack of trying.
"As receivers, that's what you ask for," Hines Ward said. "You don't get too many opportunities around here anyway, so, to be put in a position where you have to make plays in the passing game, I think we're more than capable and have the weapons to go out and do that."
Jacksonville, traditionally, is difficult to run on anyway. The Jaguars rank 14th in the NFL against the run, 24th against the pass. All three Steelers touchdowns in a 29-22 loss to Jacksonville Dec. 16 were passes. Roethlisberger then completed 29 of 42 passes for 337 yards in the Steelers' 31-29 loss to the Jaguars in their playoff game Jan. 5.
"Look back on our last two games against them, we had success passing the ball," Ward noted. "In the playoffs, we went to the hurry-up and the spread, and it really got us back in the game. Hopefully, we can learn from that and maybe exploit some things there."
The no-huddle produced the only touchdown on offense in the Steelers' 23-20 overtime victory against Baltimore in Heinz Field Monday night. Roethlisberger threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Holmes in the third quarter.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger lobbied for the no-huddle. The Steelers have talked a good game about their no-huddle, but it's not an offense they use often.
"You have to just pick your spots," Ward said. "We haven't been working on it all year. We have it in our thing and we bring it out when we need a change of pace. That's why we go to the hurry-up. When we feel like we have to start changing the tempo, to speed it up, we'll bring it up."
Roethlisberger, the lobbyist, shrugged about the chances the Steelers will use more of the no-huddle in Jacksonville.
"We'll see. It depends on how we're playing. It's a change of pace for us. It's worked well for us in the past."
Ward, Holmes and others don't believe the Steelers will switch overnight to a new offensive philosophy.
"I've been here when we were a passing team," Ward said, recalling the 2002 and '03 seasons, when Tommy Maddox was at the helm. "When we passed, we were putting up points and putting up things and everybody said we need to get back to running the ball."
The Steelers geared their offenses to their newfound passing game in '03, and they finished 6-10, tied for Bill Cowher's worst record. They emphatically returned to the run in 2004 and went 15-1.
"We're not going to abandon ship on the run game," Ward said. "We have to go out there and run the ball and control the time of possession."
"This team," offensive tackle Willie Colon said, "has to be balanced.
"We have a great quarterback in Ben and receivers. But, if we try to be the [Indianapolis] Colts out of the blue, we're going into a rut."
It may not be in their ancestry to turn into a passing team, but sometimes things call for a Plan B.
As Colon put it, "We have to just kind of let the wheels off and just fly."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com.
First published on October 2, 2008 at 12:00 am