Direction of Steelers’ Offense is Curious

Le-Veon-Bell-7The Pittsburgh Steelers added LeGarrette Blount last week to serve as the primary back-up to starter Le’Veon Bell.

As if on cue, a chorus of Steelers’ ‘fans’ let loose with celebratory cheers and some even went so far as to say this was the move needed to get us to a seventh Super Bowl title.

While I understand this is a very small minority of fans, most of whom are 12 years old or 70, it still never ceases to amaze me.

Let me get this straight.

We are supposed to be more excited about adding another running back, with a checkered past mind you, than putting the ball in the hands of our future Hall of Fame quarterback?

Apparently the answer is yes so I guess the days of Franco and Rocky are back. Or at least they are trying to bring them back….

The worst thing that happened to Ben Roethlisberger was the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. They used a solid running game, mixed with play-action passing and a dominant defense to steamroll Denver.

Art Rooney II must have been as giddy as a school boy thinking about his Steelers getting back to this style.¬†While I do believe in balance between the run and the pass, I just don’t believe it to be in the same style it once was. Lining up in the I-formation with two and three tight ends just isn’t getting it done consistently any longer.

Art II and Kevin Colbert have been putting the pieces together for a return to “old-school Steelers” football for some time now and recent moves or lack thereof are proving this point.

They added perhaps the top offensive line coach in football in Mike Munchak. During Munchak’s 14 years as the offensive line coach in Tennessee, the Titans ranked an average of 11th in the league in rushing. Of those 14 seasons however, the Titans only made the playoffs six times.

The fact that the Steelers have yet to act on an extension for QB Ben Roethlisberger also concerns me. Perhaps there is a bit of truth to him not finishing his career in Pittsburgh as the offense transitions back to a run-first mentality.

With the signing of Blount, the Steelers are tight to the cap once again and with very few players left to restructure, why has the team not taken care of its’ franchise quarterback? To say they need more cap space would be an understatement.

Even further than that though in this rush to run the ball is the offensive line itself. I have the utmost confidence that Munchak will make this a better unit, but is it one that is designed to lead a power running game?

Behind David DeCastro and Ramon Foster, I’d say yes but the other three members of a potential starting line-up don’t exactly make me think of ‘earth movers.’ This makes me wonder if the Steelers wouldn’t pull the trigger on Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews with the 15th pick.

The moves the front office has made so far indicate to me that the run-first mentality has returned and for some this is welcome news. The problem as I see it is one that even Bill Cowher finally recognized. The NFL today is based on passing to set up the run, not the other way around as it once was.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.





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29 comments on “Direction of Steelers’ Offense is Curious

  1. I don’t k now who this writer is, but you know nothing about the steelers! Probably nothing about football!
    The steelers had no quallity back ups for the running game. They got a great back up now.It’s a long season and you can’tride Bell for 30+ carries for the entire season! plus if BEll gets injured our season won’t go down the tubes! That’s what signing Blount was about, Not sying we are going to run the ball 40 times a game!

    • You’re right Vince. Because I have a different opinion I know nothing about football…. The Steelers could have made Dwyer the back up but stuck with this idea that Felix Jones was a better number two option. Now this year they go and get Blount and overpay him when they could have kept Dwyer for less money.

      • No you’re not oblivious to football knowledge, that being said you are mistaken about Dwyer. He isn’t a viable back-up RB. Last year they actually wanted Redman to do the job and he failed miserably. So they picked up Dwyer as the only other viable RB available. To say Blount isn’t an upgrade from Dwyer is a mistake. Also they don’t NEED cap space. Theyare now tight to the cap and probably wont do any more free agency until after June 1 when they get 8 Mill more room from the Woodley release. Also they didn’t overpay Blount. Just because NE wasn’t willing to pay more doesn’t mean he isn’t worth what he got money wise. A two year deal for 3.85 mil sounds great to me. That’s less than 2 mil a year.

        • I’m not saying that Dwyer is better than Blount, but I will say that I don’t believe Dwyer ever got a real opportunity to be a back-up with Jones getting the bulk of that role. JD averaged 4 yards per carry which is better than Bell yet he never got a chance on a consistent basis.
          Yes, the cap space will open up once Woodley’s first year hit comes off the books June 1 but I’ll never understand this need for the Steelers to constantly ride the cap edge.

          • I like JD and they didn’t use him correctly in my opinion. I’ve very happy we signed Blount

  2. I wonder what this writer was thinking. We only won 4 Super Bowls with Franco and Rocky. Building our backfield will only help Ben, give him more time in the pocket and help our receivers. Look at the big picture. Signing Lance Moore and Blount was a match made in heaven. Running game improves freeing up the middle of the field ie: more receptions for Moore, which in turn puts defenses in to more single coverage schemes freeing up Brown which in turn makes Ben more effective. Offense on the field more which helps the defense. This is a no brainer.

    • The days of Rocky and Franco are long gone Jeff. I’m not saying that Ben wouldn’t benefit from a solid running game but what good will running the ball do if the defense can’t stop anyone? This defense gave up over 20 points per game last year and looks to be worse heading into the season right now. The current Steelers are not built to win games 14-10. It just isn’t going to happen.

      • If the offense is on the field longer that helps the defense correct. Not saying our defense isn’t in need of help. Ike is washed up. Maybe can cover a #2 but definitely not #1. We need a DB and a giant rush end for sure. You said it yourself, were not built to win games 14-10, but we can win them 24-21.

        • You’re absolutely correct Jeff. I agree the defense needs serious help but that won’t come in just one season. Going to take time. My personal opinion is you have to be able to score if you can’t defend and I’m not sure the offense is heading in that direction which puts even more pressure on the D.

          • Well lets hope. Looking forward to upcoming season. I just hope Tomlin gets his head on straight. I see this as a make or break for him. Been pretty disappointed with him and some of his decisions. How about this scenario: Troy to mike backer, Shemarko and Smith at Free and strong safety. Draft Dennard to play #1 receiver, Ike to #2 and trade #2 pick plus 3 comp picks to move up and draft Jeffcoat outta Texas or that boy outta Penn State. If it were that easy. Here we go STEELERS

          • It’s a good theory Jeff but remember you can’t trade comp picks. I’m pretty convinced right now that Dennard will be the pick but I also believe CB and DL will receive multiple picks in this draft.

  3. The offensive line is solid, mean and growing up. All they need is another stretch receiver like the one from Oregon State. They can sign or draft a couple role backs for special teams and 3rd down efficiency. Maybe a TE if available. Other than that they can focus on defense with the extra picks. Signing the “Beard” if healthy for 2 years would be a great move. Unproven Sean Spence is a key and obviously they know more about him than we do. The bottom line is this team even with the injuries last year should have beat 3 weak teams on the schedule if they would have cut Ben loose sooner.

  4. Whoever wrote this article is either related to or is actually Bruce Arians himself. Only a fool would have blamed the offense last year, when the defense is clearly the issue. Ben had his best year, was healthy for all of it, and we finally have a feature back that is a threat in both passing and running schemes. We were nearly dead last in the league on the run. The addition of a back who can get tough yards, perhaps the best oline coach in the game to continue on the improvement that we saw from the line towards the end of last year, etc. will only help.

    The team can now focus on drafting help where we need it most, D-backfield (mainly corner), D-Line and WR’s

    Shocking how little this “reporter” know about the game of football.

    • So you read one of my articles and I know nothing about football? That makes sense…. I was a firm believer in getting rid of Bruce Arians and was glad they did. I was not however a fan of how it was handled. That said, Todd Haley would not have been my choice for the OC position. I have been fairly critical of Dick LeBeau and his defense for several years and I have no clue where you get the idea I was blaming the offense other than the fact it sucked for the first six games. The defense was bad all season and I fear it won’t change much this year either.

      Until Haley allows this offense to attack early in games rather than waiting until they are behind, the team will continue to struggle.

  5. Steeldad, I respect your opinion but am going to respectfully disagree with your assessment of what Blount brings to the table. He brings a change of pace big back that is proven to be able to get yards in short yardage situations as well as break long runs AND is a proven kick returner which we badly needed. He filled a lot of holes that simply weren’t in Dwyers repertoire.
    As for the direction the offense is going, I don’t think this varies the over all strategy as much as you think. Bell and Blount are pieces to the overall strategy not the change to the system. The whole idea in the NFL is balance. These guys bring balance to us. In a way, its another piece of the puzzle to try protect Ben from having to throw the ball 50 times a game. Putting him in 2nd and 3rd and less than 5 opens up all kinds of possibilities from the play action pass to screens to quick outs. More options than drop back wait 5 seconds for the receivers to have to get 12-15 yds down field is going to help Ben have more options and less hits.
    And thirdly, as for he defense, we addressed one of our most glaring weakness at safety by bringing in a really good guy in Mitchell. He seems to be the lost man out here because he is a younger guy without the flashy name but still a very solid player. He sounds like a Steeler already. More pieces to the defense are coming in the draft, including (I hope) that shut down corner to replace and up-grade from Ike. This off season has addressed a lot of holes in a short amount of time. I for one and really looking forward to seeing us take the momentum from the winning streak at the end of last year and building on it.

    • I appreciate the respect John. I wouldn’t have this site if everyone agreed with me… I really have no problem with the signing of Blount. I get why the Steelers did this. Bell cannot carry the load by himself and Blount gives the offense a very nice secondary option. If they pick up a speedy back in the draft I will like the move even more but time will tell on that one.

      My concern is that this offense will regress. It’s no secret that Haley was brought in to run the ball because that’s what Art Rooney II wants. Like you, I believe in balance but I am terrified that we’ll see what we saw in the first half of last year where the Steelers were constantly having to come from behind because the running game was ineffective. My hope is that the offense stays aggressive and that the running game can be used to close out games.

      • I don’t know, as you pointed out the Seahawks came up with a pretty good formula last year. One that prided itself on running the ball and passing it as well and then leaning on the defense. I think we are a few steps behind them defensively but our passing game is better. If we can develop a quality running game and give the defense a chance to mature we are a better version of Seattle I think. I think a good two back system and a changing of the defensive personnel will be a real shot towards competing for the SB trophy again. I am not sure its this year but it wouldn’t surprise me either. I think the formula is right and the personnel is catching up quickly.

  6. We are one snap away from Blount being the starter. He was brought in for that minimally. It would be insane to only have one back on the team. Why have backup QB’s. Last year they didn’t need 3 QB’s but a backup is only one snap away from being a starter. Heck it could be 0 snaps away. Sometimes it happens do to a motorcycle accident, car wreck being stabbed at 4 am coming out of a bar on the Southside.

    • Again, I like the Blount signing for the very reason you point out. An injury could totally change things if Bell goes down and having a vet is a good thing. My concern is that that this team is heading backwards in terms of offensive planning. It took half a season for Haley to realize that he couldn’t keep putting Ben and the offense in third and long situations.
      Everyone seems to have this expectation that because the OL is a year older and that Munchak is aboard that they will suddenly turn into something awesome. Much like we have to be concerned with injuries at RB we must remember this OL hasn’t exactly been a picture of health either.

  7. Bold, contrarian thinking on the part of the Steelers management. While the rest of the league moves toward defenses that are geared to stop aerial attacks by utilizing nickel and dime defenses it is only common sense to throw power/ zone run schemes at them. Those personnel packages won’t match up well with a power run game. Think about how the Chargers with Dan Fouts and company used to give the Steel Curtain fits.

  8. Marc: You bring up an excellent thought. I looked at the signing as strengthening the running game that has been woeful the past several years. If the team decides to turn back the clock 40 years that would be a mistake.
    What the running based fans forget, or never knew, was that the Steelers were a running team for the first 2 super bowls. In 1976, after a slow start, they beat Baltimore in the playoffs handily, but lost both Blier and Harris. They lost the next game in Oakland without a backfield, with Oakland going on to win the super bowl. The following year Noll opened up the offense, and the last 2 super bowls they utilized a much more balanced offense. Swann and Stallworth really taking over those bowl games. The running game mopped up. The better offenses today can roll down the field on passing. Their run games do not provide that. As Russell Wilson matures, that team will become more pass balanced also.

    • And the key issue you bring up is balance Ron. Totally agree with that. If people think I want Ben to throw it 40 times a game that isn’t the case at all. I’m concerned that they will live and die with the run again and then force Ben to save every game in the end rather than attacking early and running late with a nice lead.

  9. The writer brought up the subject of moving on from Ben so here I go! IF you traded Ben in The first round who do you trade him to and then who do you draft?
    I’d trade him to St Louis for both first round picks this year and then I’m drafting Bortles or Bridgewater at #2 but I could see taking Sammy Watkins and Grabbing a QB later.

    • I only brought up moving Roethlisberger as a crazy thought that if the team is moving back towards a power running attack then go get something for Ben. The fact that they have yet to talk new deal with him worries me.

  10. The NFL today is built the same way it always has been, Defense Wins Championships! I think the Steelers are heading for a defensive heavy draft. If they are not they should be, unless the talent pool doesn’t justify it.

    I think the only return to yesterday the organization wants is to win more Lombardi’s. You can never go wrong with an effective running game and Bell and Blunt should be just that and more.

    As long as Ben is on this team the ball is going in the air, so look for them to continue to strengthen that group, via the draft the round will depend on who is on the board at 15 although I don’t see it here as this draft is supposed to be deep at receiver and given the defensive needs and last years 3rd round pick this can wait until the 3rd or 4th round. The Steelers have done a lot of work on the O-line running backs and receivers in recent years. What they have don so far in free agency, I think, is an attempt to be able to take the best player available (No QB or RB Here!) but I expect there to be more early defensive selections than offense.

  11. My takes is this , Bell has yet to prove himself as a quality NFL RB. I understand the rookie yardage record , but it took him over 100 more touches to break it. I believe Blount is a great RB he was arguably the best RB in the NFL down the stretch last year. He is much more than a short yardage back as evident my his high Y.P.C. I actually think the Steelers would be better served starting Blount and using Bell as a third down back and to spell him as needed. Another thing about Bell is that he only catches 50% of the passes thrown his way so he may not be as good as a receiver as billed. I am a huge Steeler fan i just don’t want to see them waste this chance to have a very good backfield by labeling Blount as a great back up when he is the superior player. Remember your not good because you are a Steeler you are good because you are.

  12. Bob graff. You my friend r an idiot. 45 rec of 66 attempts is not 50 % . It’s closer to 70% than 50% buddy. We got Blount for short yardage and goal line and special teams. Let’s keep it that way. Bell is the starter for good reason , because he’s good, not because he’s a steeler.

    • Eric the simple thing is he has yet to prove it and Blounts body of work is pretty impressive. Was i an idiot when i said it took him 100 more touches to break the rookie yardage record?? Maybe buts it’s the truth, i don’t make stats up and there are many different places to access stats you just choose to use the home cooked one and that’s your bussiness. I fully understand what you are saying, i’m saying 880 yards rushing on 250 attempts is below average any way you butter your Steeler toast. Can Bell improve sure, but he lacks that quick lateral step most good backs have. [right now]

  13. The Steeler Offense should be this: Let Ben run the show plain and simple. It’s passing league and everybody knows that. A lot of people mention how the Hawks won the superbowl based on the Strength of a solid run game and top notch D. Well as one radio host pointed out some time after the superbowl: The Steelers had the same formula when they won it in 2005 or have people forgotten that. I watched that whole season and most of the time it was the run game that got them points and the D created and forced turnovers just about every week. Now it’s true that when they played teams like Indy and Denver they went to an air attack and made the run game there 2nd option but at that time it was always a run first league. When they won Superbowl XL the run game carried them and relied on the D to hold Seattle in check. Now I am a firm believer of put the ball in the hands of your best player. The Steelers best player is Ben no question about it. I trust the Steelers will give Ben an extension but then again were dealing ART II and not Dan Rooney. the offense is missing a couple of weapons such as No.2 WR and a option back(another name for a speedy type back). Those weapons must come from the draft. Put a Tall WR to play opposite of AB and allow Moore and Wheaton to battle it for the 3 and 4 spots and I know a lot of you like Wheaton but it’s like you guys say: This is the NFL you never know what’s going to happen but it’s just the way I see it. Find that Tall WR early in the draft and I know you guys like both Thomas and Archer but what happens if neither of them are there say in the 5th, 6th or 7th round then what? Yes I realize the D needs help but some of you people make it sound like there problems can be fixed with this one draft. do not think like that cause that kind of thinking can come back and bite square in the butt.

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