Steelers know what to expect
Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, now a part of NBCís ďFootball Night in AmericaĒ studio team, will be providing a regular column for Steelers Digest.
The Steelers won the AFC North Division and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs by defeating the Baltimore Ravens. But as impressive
as that was, the Steelers followed that by losing rather decisively to the Tennessee Titans in a game for the No. 1 seed through the conference playoffs.
Making the playoffs is a nice accomplishment, but for a team like the Steelers itís what you do once you get into the playoffs that really
matters. Here are some of the issues that will have an impact on how the Steelers do this postseason.
It really helps to have players with playoff experience, because that allows them to have an even temperament during this critical time. If you donít have that experience, you donít know what to expect, and the tendency is to always be excited. When you get excited like that, it
takes away from the energy level. The more you know what to expect,
the better you are going to be able to perform, and the Steelers have a mix of experience ó guys who won a Super Bowl and guys who lost in the first game last year.
No matter how you get it, itís experience.
Another thing that can work in their favor is having played the schedule they did. It will do nothing but help them. Their playoff opponents probably will be teams they already have seen this season, and thatís a definite advantage.
Look at Super Bowl XLII. The Giants had already played the Patriots
and knew what to expect. That experience plays a factor yet again.
It can wear you down having played that tough a schedule, but it
makes you a better football team in the end. The benefit outweighs the
negative because you become battle-tested. You know what type of
football team you have because you have faced the best teams in the
RUN TO WIN
Because of the threat of bad weather, you have to be able to run the ball in the postseason. Weather conditions can create bad field situations, and running the football is the most consistent way that you win.
The Steelers running game has gone through a philosophical change. The way they run is not the same. They got rid of a true fullback and went with a tweener fullback/tailback or a tight end/fullback.
It took a lot of emphasis away from the running game; the power running game pretty much dried up.
If the Steelers donít depend heavily on the run, they can go as far as
Ben Roethlisberger can take them. He becomes the key to the game because they do throw the ball so much more and rely on big plays in
the passing game. So Ben has to play well.
THE STARS MUST SHINE
Ben having to play well leads to this next point: It is so important this
time of year that the teamís best players step up.
This is the time that stars are born, and those guys have to step up and provide production.
A lot of times younger players become nervous and jittery heading
into the playoffs, and so it falls to the Pro Bowl players, the top caliber
guys, to be leaders and guide the team in the postseason. The key
players have to play big this time of year.
When I was there I was a part of that. The leaders set the tone in practice, in the conversations that we had in the locker room. The tone
was set by the veteran players.
COACHING IS A KEY
Success in the NFL is a by-product of coaching. In the playoffs, you play the best teams, so you need an edge.
The talent levels of the teams are going to be close, and rarely does
one team dominate another. With that, the coachesí strategy, philosophy and game plan will dictate which team has the best chance of winning. In the playoffs, coaching is even more important.
Itís critically important that the players really buy into the game plan. The game plan is the Holy Grail. If the players donít buy into the game plan itís going to be difficult for them to commit themselves
to give 100 percent.
The game plan is whatís going to separate wins and losses in the playoffs, and so if the guys donít buy into it, it shows.
The Steelers have an advantage with a defensive coordinator like Dick LeBeau. He knows the defense, he knows what stops what. If he
doesnít have something in a game plan, he has players who are so
adaptable that he can change a defense in a huddle and then go out
and run it. Having veteran players allows that.
It is immeasurable what a guy like Dick LeBeau gives a defense, and
heís the one defensive coordinator I would hate to face. Heís going to
confuse you, frustrate you. Heís going to put pressure on the quarterback. This Steelers defense is very aggressive and they dictate.
The Steelers go into the playoffs with a bye week, and I think having
it cuts both ways, because there are advantages to playing and advantages to having the bye week.
The advantage to playing is if youíre a hot football team you are able to get on a roll and stay on a roll.
If youíre a consistently dominant team, getting the bye is an opportu-
nity to get healthy as well as an opportunity to get extra work on the
areas that need it.
For the Steelers, having the bye is really a plus because now you get an extra week to work on any deficiencies you have in your game. One of those deficiencies is running the football.
The bye gives them an extra week to work on running the football. They can come out in the playoffs and be a different team than the one they were in the regular season and they can give defenses some real struggles.
A long season wears your body down physically and mentally, so you have to take care of yourself even more this time of year. If youíre
not taking care of your body, putting the right foods in it, your body is
going to break down. Your body is a machine. If itís not taken care of
properly, it will fail.
You also need to prepare in the film room, too. The more you know
your opponent, the better prepared you become. Preparation is all you
have to carry you through the challenges of advancing through the
From week to week, itís hard for a team to change too much. If you
donít have a bye week you canít change things in two days, and thatís
really all the intensive practice and meeting time thatís available when
youíre on a schedule with a game every weekend. The more preparation you get in terms of understanding the personnel and what they can do, the better prepared you will become.
Finally, players have to stay focused.
I would encourage players to watch football during the bye week.
Itís the playoffs. Itís an incredible opportunity.
Anything you can pick up, you want to pick up. Thatís looking at both teams and seeing if you can find some things that the team did that were successful. You want to look at all of those things while you watch the games.
Itís important to watch the games, stay involved and be ready.
Re: Steelers know what to expect
JB would know about the importance of coaching and game planning in playoff football. He played for one of the most bumbling, incapable big game coaches in the history of the sport for years. I don't think Tomlin can possibly be anything BUT an improvement over what we've had here in the past.
Originally Posted by NKySteeler
Cowher was great at creating the physical play and try hard approach that got teams TO the playoffs. Once there, he got schooled by nearly everybody he played. Here's hoping that the dawn of a new era brings a solid approach to the cerebral, as well as the physical and emotional, parts of playing winning football.