Steelers' playbook mostly left shut in opener
Steelers' playbook mostly left shut in opener
August 11, 2012
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks to the sidelines after getting sacked in the first quarter of last night's loss to Philadelphia.
They dinked, they dunked, they lost.
Anyone searching for dynamics in the new Steelers offense this side of rookie running back Chris Rainey might have come away disappointed Thursday night in Philadelphia. Not only were there no deep passes completed, none were attempted.
And that just might have been the plan. This, after all, was the first preseason game, the first chance for the Steelers to work Todd Haley's offense other than against themselves in Latrobe. The full version wasn't going to be put on stage Aug. 9 in Lincoln Financial Field.
"As always, we're going to be pretty basic throughout the preseason, especially these first few games," said tight end Heath Miller, who is expected to be a key component of Haley's offense but was not targeted once in Philadelphia. "There's certainly stuff we want to be good at no matter who we play, and we tried to do that."
That would be the running game and the short passing game. It's what they wanted to do Thursday, not air it out with their haul-it-in receiver still holding out. They've done that stuff before; the ground game, the short passing game is what needed work and, on the first drive -- the only one that really counted -- they did a decent job of that.
"We really didn't open up our playbook," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who scored the first touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Byron Leftwich. "We just went with a small margin of our playbook. There's still a lot more to come; we didn't want to show too much. As the preseason games come along, we'll continue to expand."
Roethlisberger completed seven of his eight passes in that first, 16-play drive that ended with a field goal, the height of efficiency. In fact, the three quarterbacks approached perfection as passer ratings determine it, with a 128.4. They threw two touchdowns, no interceptions. They were sacked way too many times, seven, but that comes with preseason games and the fact the Steelers opened the game with two rookie linemen.
"We were very limited tonight," Roethlisberger said Thursday after the game. "Well, I don't want to say limited, but we didn't have a lot tonight, we kept it simple and we just tried to go out and play against someone else."
More heat on Wallace unlikely
The Steelers have another chance to put some procedural pressure on holdout Mike Wallace starting today, if they wish. It is unlikely they will.
From today through Wednesday, teams can provide written notice to certain unsigned players and the union of their intent to place such players on what is called the Exempt List if they fail to report no later than one day prior to the second preseason game. The Steelers play the Indianapolis Colts Aug. 19.
A player thus notified who fails to report by then would be ineligible to play or receive compensation for at least three games, counting the preseason or regular season, from the time he reports.
Thus, the Steelers could give Wallace that notice and, if he didn't report, he would be ineligible for three games until he does report.
There is little indication the Steelers would do that. They passed on the chance to reduce Wallace's tender from $2.742,000 to $577,500 when they could have done so June 15.
Some of Wallace's teammates who have been talking with him during his holdout continue to express optimism that he will end his holdout soon.
RB Batch makes giant strides
Baron Batch had good reason to enjoy the Thursday night game in Philadelphia, at least 19 of them.
That is how many times Batch carried the ball against the Eagles, one for each month he has gone since the last time he had played in a football game.
That came Jan. 1, 2011, for Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl vs. Northwestern.
"This is the first game I played in 18 or 19 months," Batch said. "I didn't realize I had that many until I saw that I had carried 19 times.
"That's a lot. I didn't carry that much in college. It felt good."
He led the Steelers with 41 yards rushing, and it was the mere fact he was able to return from that ACL surgery one year ago that ranked higher than his 2.2 yards per carry. He had four carries on two separate drives inside the Eagles 5 and picked up a net of 1 yard, which he attributed to his long layoff, and not the fact there were no holes to be found.
"That was the first time I've done some of that stuff," said Batch, whose ACL was torn in camp before the first preseason game last year. "When we did goal line in practice, I didn't go. That was my first live since I hurt my knee. It was just good to be back out there and get one under my belt."
• With fullback/tight end David Johnson out, the Steelers will have to determine whether Will Johnson, the only fullback on the roster, can handle the job or they need to find another. Johnson went undrafted in 2011 and was out of football, working three jobs and working out. The Steelers signed him in March after WVU's pro day workouts.
• Good enough reason for Brett Keisel to skip the first preseason game: He and his wife Sarah welcomed the birth of their third child and second son.
• Practice will resume today at Saint Vincent College and will be open to the public at 3 p.m., as the final week of training camp in Latrobe begins.
• Preseason Game 2: Steelers vs. Colts.
• When: 7:30 p.m. August 19.
• Where: Heinz Field.
Ed: Steelers Wanted to Work on Shorter Game
SATURDAY, 11 AUGUST 2012 WRITTEN BY ED BOUCHETTE
The Steelers are back to work today at Saint Vincent College, with a public practice at 3 p.m. Here’s a primer:
--- As I mentioned yesterday, fullback Will Johnson will get a good, long look at fullback. He’s a pure fullback, which is probably why he went undrafted last year. With the lockout and everything, he could not be signed after the draft and then was lost in the shuffled. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert attended WVU’s pro day this year and liked what they saw and signed him. They’ve liked what they’ve seen in camp so far, too. He’s athletic, can block and catch, just want they want out of their fullback. He wears No. 46.
--- Did anyone really expect the Steelers to start flinging the ball deep against the Eagles Thursday night? They have been working on their short game in training camp along with their running game. They know they can throw it deep, so they’re working on things they haven’t done well in the past and what Todd Haley wants to do more of in 2012. It does not mean they won’t go deep. First, they’d like to get Mike Wallace back before they do that too often.
--- None of the young receivers behind the top three have distinguished themselves in training camp, and none did so in the first preseason game.
--- While there is more and more optimism that Mike Wallace will end his holdout and report to the Steelers, he still hasn’t reported. Ben Roethlisberger told me early in training camp he thought it would be “soon,’’ and he told The Fan early this week the same thing. Other teammates who have talked to Wallace, are saying “soon” as well, as did his trainer. Determining what “soon” is seems to be the main stumbling block.
--- And remember, the longer he stays away, the shorter window he has to cut a multiple-year deal with the Steelers. They will not negotiate once the season begins. It is Aug. 11, and they open Sept. 9 in Denver.
--- Chris Rainey is better than the kid Todd Haley had in Kansas City, Dexter McCluster.
--- YOU: I was wonder what chance WR Tyler Beiler has at making the team?
As far as I could see he was running crisp routes, getting separation, using his body to box out the DBs and was a block-til-the-whistle kinda guy on running downs.
He has good size. Additionally he made a pretty good catch on the sidelines late in the game that I remember his sharp, crisp break from the DB to catch the ball on his back shoulder.
I have another question that kinda ties into this one: why did we let go of Tyler Grisham? How does one go about asking another if perhaps the head coach is biased towards certain types of persons when it comes to certain positions? It's a damned shame I can't the question straight out, but are the white kids just not good enough to make the team?
ME: It’s funny because when I see Tyler Beiler catch one in camp, I refer to him as the “next Tyler Grisham,’’ because some people called Grisham, who also wore No. 19, the next Wes Welker. Beiler has as good a chance as any because none have stuck out, but of them all, I’ve noticed No. 19 more than others. Toney Clemons, I’ve been told, probably has the best chance of the bunch. I never really asked anyone why Grisham didn’t stay and signed with Denver, but it was his choice to do so. After three years not making it with the Steelers (he played in four games in 2009 and then spent time on the practice squad), he probably felt it was best to try somewhere else.
--- YOU: A significant number of people chatting during the game last night were blaming the Steelers for the injuries to the o-line. The blame varied, from Kugler's schemes to the training staff. IMO, a player rolling up on another player isn't the fault of a trainer or a coach - but this comment is dismissed. Is there any evidence to suggest the Steelers suffer more injuries to the o-line than do other teams? Is there any evidence to suggest the reasons are anything other than the bad luck that results when large men violently collide?
ME: And those who are suggesting this, they are doctors, trainers, or other professionals who know something about injuries, training and coaching? I love how accountants, business people and those in the media can make snap judgments on such things. Here is how David Johnson was injured Thursday night: An Eagles defenseman pushed Marcus Gilbert backward and he fell onto Johnson’s leg.
--- YOU: In your opinion, what are the best stadiums in the NFL? What are the worst?
(not just in terms of press box facilities, but overall quality) I know you don't watch as a fan from a ticketed seat, but I'm kind of curious what your general impressions are.
ME: I’m probably not one to ask because I’ve never sat anywhere else but the press box in an NFL stadium. I do like Philadelphia’s, Baltimore’s and Cleveland’s. Not a fan at all of those monstrosities in Dallas and New York/Jersey. Chicago’s is an abomination. Of course, Candlestick in San Francisco is the worst but it’s also the oldest, I believe.
--- YOU: Your take on Burress seems so reasonable and logical. Yet its not likely to happen (if it was, it would have). When you make these kinds of observations, I wonder what team management sees so differently. The money? Chemistry? The Steelers have shown themselves to be a savvy judge of needs and talent; so I am even more perplexed. I wish you could get a definitive answer from the team on this issue.
ME: Turns out, it’s not the money because he will play for one year at the minimum. Here’s my take: If they sign Burress and then Wallace comes in, that makes Burress No. 5 and that’s not a good situation for anyone. Yes, they’d have him ready if someone gets hurt but you cannot operate that way. Now, if two of their top receivers went down with injuries today, I believe they’d try to sign Burress. He also may not want to come here, knowing what position he would be in if he did. And he’s not going to leapfrog the other four if they stay healthy.
--- YOU: the steelers stance is wallace isn't available via trade...do you think this means that they aren't listening or aren't actively shopping him around....if they could unload him now for say a 2nd or 3rd rounder (especially while a capable receiver like Plex is still out there to be had) isn't this the smart play? or are they concerned that would look like giving into wallace's holdout?
ME: There are probably several reasons why they have adamantly said they will not trade him. Precedent is one. They give in to Wallace, who is next who would demand a trade so he could get more money? They actually also want him on the team this year and trading him would bring no return for 2012. In my opinion, they must believe he is going to end his holdout. He will become a free agent in 2013 if, as I surmise, they won’t be able to come to a long-term agreement. If that happens and he signs elsewhere, he would probably bring them a third-round draft pick in 2014 as the boobie prize, a compensatory pick.
Steelers’ offense all but installed for season
By Alan Robinson
Published: Monday, August 13, 2012
Steelers offensive Coordinator Todd Haley during practice at St. Vincent College Aug. 12, 2012
What was supposed to be the talk of Steelers’ training camp isn’t being discussed at all, and that might be the most encouraging sign to new coordinator Todd Haley that his offense is ready to roll.
So much for that springtime chatter that a playbook differing greatly from Bruce Arians’ will require, as Ben Roethlisberger said, a Rosetta Stone translation.
Players who grew comfortable with Arians’ methods aren’t grumbling that the terminology is difficult to learn or overwhelmingly complex. That might be because Haley is employing a “less is more approach” in which players aren’t being avalanched but asked to get comfortable — and good — at what they’re doing.
Players surely liked this message from Haley following the game in Philadelphia: The playbook is essentially finished.
“Not a lot of new is going to be showing up,” Haley said Sunday. “Now, we’ve got to fine-tune, get good and figure out what we do real well.”
The Steelers didn’t do much schematically against the Eagles, partly because the teams play again Oct. 7. Staying with three basic formations, Haley estimates he called only six run plays and 10 to 12 pass plays.
“That’s pretty extreme,” Haley said of the slimmed-down scheme. “The regular season, I think, we will expand a little more.”
One challenge for Haley is opening the playbook enough for players to become proficient with it but not provide a regular-season blueprint for opponents.
“You’ve got to worry about yourselves first, making sure that, No. 1, you’re able to evaluate the guys, yet not doing too much so that the guys who aren’t getting a ton of reps, you can actually look at them,” Haley said. “Secondly, it’s working on the things we’re going to do as a team and getting efficient at those things.”
Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Jerrod Johnson threw screen pass after screen pass. Haley believes dumping off the ball to a back will reduce the sacks Roethlisberger takes.
“(Screens have) been an emphasis for us, and you’ve seen us work out here in drills and in practice,” Haley said. “We want to get a bunch of them called in the real action and see if we can’t get pretty efficient at it because it can be a real weapon.”
During a time when four-receiver formations are common, the Steelers always employed at least one tight end in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a coincidence because, as Haley said, “We do like to have some form of a tight end out there.”
Haley was pleased with first-round draft pick David DeCastro and wasn’t discouraged that rookie left tackle Mike Adams allowed multiple sacks.
“Mike got beat a couple of times but, at the same time, we thought he was one of our better guys in the run game,” Haley said.
Haley also said the pregame preparation — minimal for the Eagles — will ramp up each week.
“It will get closer to a real game week,” he said. “Last week we didn’t have game plan books or anything, but this week we will have a little more than that to give them more of an idea how we will handle it in-season.”