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Thread: run game returns to power

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    Default run game returns to power

    Steelers' run game returns to power
    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    It is too early to say, after just one game, whether the Steelers will be a power-running team with Ben Roethlisberger playing quarterback.

    They are off to a promising start in that department, and the Steelers will need the kind of offensive balance they showed this past Sunday in a 28-10 win against the Browns as they embark on the meat of their schedule.

    Their next four opponents have won 62 percent of their games. Starting Sunday in Miami, the Steelers play their next three games on the road.

    Not that wide receiver Hines Ward is daunted by what lies ahead for the 4-1 Steelers.

    "If we continue to mix it up and stay balanced," he said, "I like our chances this year."

    One reason: Ward's faith in a running game that is averaging 131 yards this season and is among the NFL's top-10 teams in that category.

    Ward said the Steelers are "10 times better" this season when it comes to running the ball and specifically, imposing their will against opposing defenses.

    They ground out 44 of their 121 rushing yards against the Browns in the fourth quarter while protecting a double-digit lead.

    And the Steelers appear better equipped to play the kind of power football that has long been their trademark but is something they strayed from last season.

    Rashard Mendenhall runs with a more of a bruising style than Willie Parker, his predecessor. Isaac Redman has given them a different dimension at fullback and should only improve as a blocker.

    Injuries, meanwhile, haven't prevented the offensive line from showing significant improvement -- as well as the kind of attitude that is required to run right at opponents.

    "There's a lot more talking (among the offensive linemen) in the huddle than there was last year," Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "This year it's 'Let's go,' pumping each other up, 'We've got to finish this drive, we've got to move the ball.' "

    [HIGH-LIGHT]3 questions with Will Allen[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Is there anything that has surprised you since joining the Steelers' organization?

    "I love the camaraderie. Everybody's here for the same goal. Nobody's here for selfish ambition, and it's genuine. They build a team community here, and I just love being around it because it just makes the game so much easier when you know everybody's working towards that goal. Winning is our business, and that's what I love about it. It reminds me a lot of college. In college, everybody has to be close-knit because there's such a fine line between winning and losing."

    What is on your bucket list?

    "My bucket list is to go to every major sporting event that is world-known, from the Kentucky Derby to the Daytona 500 to the running of the bulls (in Pamplona, Spain). I want to go to a major cricket match, go to the World Cup, go to Augusta to see the Masters, stuff like that. I haven't been to anything yet, so I've got to do it."

    What player in the locker room always makes you laugh?

    "Larry Foote, because he went to Michigan and is from Michigan and I'm from Ohio. He's loud, obnoxious (laughs). No, he's a great guy. I enjoy him a lot. He always gives me crap, but he's always got my back."

    [HIGH-LIGHT]3 players to watch[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    Chad Henne, Dolphins QB Miami is 0-2 when he passes for more than 300 yards and 3-0 when he throws for less than that benchmark.

    Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers QB: Will try to build on solid season debut; Fins fans won't be nearly as welcoming in his first road game since returning from a four-game suspension.

    Cameron Wake, Dolphins OLB: Penn State and Canadian Football League product is tied for third in the NFL with six sacks.


    Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, on inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who has 59 tackles, three sacks and an interception:

    "Lawrence is a big-time talent. He runs to the ball, he creates plays because of his range because of how he hustles. He's becoming a veteran player. He just does good work for us, consistently, week in and week out."

    Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, on his weekly competition with fellow rookie and good friend Antonio Brown for a spot on the game-day roster:

    "I always tell Antonio, 'Someday, we're going to be out there together.' That's the day we're waiting on, but right now, the situation is the situation, so we've got to make it as competitive as we can. "We're making each other better every day because we know there's only one hat out there, and like coach Tomlin says, there's two dogs and one bone."

    Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, on outside linebacker James Harrison, who knocked two players out of Sunday's game and is on pace for more than 14 sacks this season:

    "I hope I don't owe him any money or anything. He's a beast. He's our emotional leader. He's not really a vocal guy. He just goes out there and leads by example, and he plays his tail off every single play."

    [HIGH-LIGHT]By the numbers[/HIGH-LIGHT]

    1: NFL rank of the Chargers after Sunday's games in total offense, passing offense, total defense and passing defense
    2: Chargers wins through six games
    9: Sacks allowed by the Steelers
    13: Sacks allowed by the Steelers through first five games of 2009
    202: Rushing yards, a season-high, the Steelers had in their 30-24 win at Miami this past January
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: run game returns to power

    Continued focus on run will help Roethlisberger's effectiveness

    By Pat Kirwan
    Senior Analyst
    Published: Oct. 19, 2010

    Even though a strong case could be made for the Jets and a few other teams, I believe the Steelers are the best team in the league through six weeks. Pittsburgh gets the nod because of how well it played without Super Bowl MVP Ben Roethlisberger, who has now returned to bolster the offense.

    While he was gone, the team got back to its roots of running the ball and playing great defense. After watching the gameplan unfold in his return last Sunday, there is much to like about this team.

    Take a look at the run-to-pass ratio on first downs. As you can see in the chart to the right, the Steelers got away from the run game from 2007-09. Granted, the yards per pass attempt went up, enticing the Steelers to move more in that direction, but this year paints a different picture.

    Pittsburgh had to protect the backup quarterbacks that were on the field while Roethlisberger was gone, causing it to focus heavily on the run game. The Steelers have rushed the ball 72 percent of the time on first downs to the tune of 5 yards per carry.

    Running the ball more for a higher average -- now that's getting it done.

    With Roethlisberger back, the Steelers were expected to return to the 2009 pace of a 50/50 ratio. That did not end up happening. Instead, they ran the ball 22 times on first down (76 percent), while passing just seven times. They lead the NFL with a 73 percent run-to-pass ratio and the run average is higher than it has been since 2007. The passing numbers are up as well at 9.7 yards per pass.

    Bill Cowher told me the other day while watching Roethlisberger handle the offense, "the first-down gameplan is really going to help Ben get to manageable third downs and he will be even more effective."

    Keep in mind, Roethlisberger was sacked 50 times last year. Eleven of those sacks came in two games against the Browns, in which he threw just two touchdowns in 67 throws.

    Roethlisberger wasn't sacked once in 27 passes, and he connected on three touchdowns last Sunday. Cowher and I agree that the new balance in the offense will only enhance Roethlisberger's passing production. Big Ben was 5-for-7 on first-down passing for 104 yards and 15 yards per attempt. Believe me, upcoming opponents will struggle with this offense.

    Roethlisberger will also improve the Steelers in the red zone, where he went 4-for-6 and connected on two of his three touchdown passes. Roethlisberger threw 16 touchdown passes in the red zone last year and appears to be as sharp as ever already.

    Rashard Mendenhall had four rushing touchdowns in the four weeks Roethlisberger was gone, and the Steelers were facing a Browns team that had not given up a rushing touchdown. With a first-and-goal situation a year ago, Roethlisberger may have taken a few shots at the end zone. This year, Pittsburgh brought in an extra offensive lineman as a tight end and 2 yards later, the Browns gave up their first rushing touchdown of the year.

    Ben Roethlisberger had five 300-plus yard passing games last year, and before this season is over, he'll need a few more. In the fourth quarter last year, Roethlisberger was 80-for-125 with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Last week, he was 4-for-8 with a touchdown in the fourth quarter. All signs point to him being even better this year because of his physical conditioning. Additionally, if he's not taking the normal beating he takes with sacks (242 in 88 games), he will have the stamina to do an even better job late in games.

    One interesting dimension to Roethlisberger's game is how he plays on the road, given the abuse he might receive from fans for his off-field problems. In the last three years he has a 12-10 road record, and last year he threw more touchdown passes on the road (14), than at home (12). His first 2010 road game comes Sunday in Miami, incidentally the last place he played prior to his off-field problems.

    He threw three touchdowns in that game on just 27 passes. That's the same number of passes and touchdowns he threw this past week.

    Roethlisberger has always been known for the big play in the passing game, and the Steelers were third with 64 passes of 20-plus yards last season. He looks like he's right back where he left off with four passes over 20 yards last week to four different players. As one Steelers player said to me this week, "His arm is fresh and never looked stronger."

    Cowher added, "Time will validate Roethlisberger, and he will ultimately be judged by his actions over a long period of time."

    In the meantime, he looks poised to lead an already very good football team to the top of the NFL. He better be ready with three straight road games against Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati before returning home to play the Patriots.

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    Default Re: run game returns to power

    Issac Redman: Clock Killer?

    by Pete Wilmoth Oct 22, 2010 12:42 AM EDT

    Apparently, someone among the Steelers brass instructed second-string running back Issac Redman to get ready for a heavier workload. Redman, who's received most of his opportunities this season (21 rushes, 89 yards) in short-yardage situations, could be used more extensively to protect Pittsburgh leads from here on out.

    This is great news for breakout rusher Rashard Mendenhall (99 ypg), who is currently on pace for over 370 carries, a number that has typically spelled doom for the welfare of some of the league's most decorated running backs. Granted, the list of runners who've been leaned on this hard is pretty short - so the sample size for the "Curse of 370" is pretty weak - but feeding Redman in games that are more or less decided is a smart move, regardless.

    No use risking injury to Mendenhall, who (pardon the pun) carried the offense in Ben Roethlisberger's absence.

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