Here’s a radical idea for the Steelers as they head to Baltimore for a game Sunday: Pick a lead runner and stick with him.
It’s time for Mike Tomlin to go with one back, give him at least 75 percent of the carries and see what happens. Preferably, that back would be Jonathan Dwyer, who has been their most consistent of the season, which really isn’t saying much because no one has been consistent in the true sense of the word.
Dwyer, though, has had the best combination of power and an ability to break loose for a long run. What Tomlin did Sunday in Cleveland was head-scratching, yanking back after back as they continued to fumble. Of all those fumbles, though, Dwyer’s was the most acceptable, if you will, because of the kind of hit he took. The others were soft, except for Chris Rainey’s near the end. But Rainey also lost a fumble out of bounds and he’s just not big or strong enough to be a lead back.
This offense right now needs more than Ben Roethlisberger, it needs a back that can produce and help the quarterback. That did not happen for Charlie Batch Sunday or for Byron Leftwich against the Ravens’ 26th-ranked run defense (Leftwich had 31 of their 134 yards rushing on his TD dash). And it did not happen against Kansas City.
The Steelers have not had a good running game since Isaac Redman ran for 147 against the New York Giants. Coincidentally, that’s the last time the Steelers did not have halfback-by-committee, mainly because both Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall were hurt.
Pick one, coach, and stick with him.
Onto some stuff:
--- The fellas on NBC-TV’s Football Night in America don’t think much of the Steelers chances right now, even though they are ahead in the wildcard playoff race. Former Steelers player and defensive coordinator Tony Dungy had this to say: “The Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble.’’
Here is the back and forth discussion the group had on the Steelers, including Dungy, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Rodney Harrison:
Michaels on Ben Roethlisberger: “I don’t think there’s anybody as important to his team as Ben is to his right now in the National Football League.”
Collinsworth on Steelers-Browns: “It was bizarre watching that game. I think every running back on the roster had a fumble in the game. Just very un-Steelers-like football right now. A little bit of panic, who knows? It just doesn’t look good.”
Harrison: “I’m not saying it’s all on Charlie Batch, but he has to take the majority of the blame. I know he’s the third-string quarterback, but he’s a 15-year veteran. When he comes in and gets that opportunity, he has to come in and perform.”
Dungy: “I kind of disagree with that, because, to me, the Steelers formula is: run the ball, play defense. You know your backup quarterback is not going to be as good as Roethlisberger, but if every back you have fumbles the ball, every lineman you have holds, and your receivers drop every pass…”
Harrison: “They were packing the pocket with eight or nine guys because they have no threat or no fear that he’s going to make them pay.”
Dungy: “They have to run the ball and play defense even when Ben Roethlisberger gets back. If they play like this, they won’t win another game.”
Dungy: “The Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble. Not only are they down to their third quarterback, they’re playing bad football—interceptions, fumbles, and penalties in bunches.”
--- With Marcus Gilbert on injured reserve and Mike Adams hurt, here is the most likely offensive line the Steelers will throw at the Ravens Sunday night, from left to right: Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster. If they deem him ready, David DeCastro could start at right guard instead of Legursky.
--- From the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Franco Harris will be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company in Mt. Holly, N.J., on Friday, Nov. 30, as part of “Hometown Hall of Famers™,” a national program honoring the hometown roots of the sport’s greatest players, coaches and contributors with special ceremonies and plaque dedication events in local communities.
A nine-time Pro Bowl selection as a running back in the NFL and former high school standout at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mt. Holly, N.J., Harris will be presented with his “Hometown Hall of Famer™” plaque during a special ceremony at 1:15 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 30, at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, where the plaque will live permanently to serve as an inspiration for the school’s students and athletes. The presentation will be made by Bob Smith, Harris’ former quarterback on his high school football team.
The ceremony will be attended by Rancocas Valley Regional High School students, faculty, staff, alumni and Harris’ family members and close friends. Bob Sapp, Harris’ former teammate, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.In addition to the plaque, a commemorative Franco Harris “Hometown Hall of Famers™” road sign will be on display in Mt. Holly, N.J.
--- Onto your questions:
--- YOU: Now that DeCastro has been activated what are the chances that he can actually contribute this year and isn't this a bit of a risk, or do you think that the move was more to allow him to get additional practice time in that he would not be eligible for on IR?
ME: He was eligible to practice for three weeks before they had to decide anything with him and they did it two weeks early. Sounds as though he’s ready to play.
--- YOU: In the Patriots/Jets game LeRon Landry hit a Patriots receiver running a reverse. He led with his helmet and hit the receiver (well in this case “running back”) in the head. No penalty. How does the NFL justify this? It’s OK to hit a running back but not a receiver or quarterback? To me if the NFL was (really) serious about concussions and head injuries they would make all helmet to helmet contact illegal. That has to be confounding to defensive players.
ME: A runner is not considered defenseless, a receiver while trying to catch the ball and until he becomes a “runner” is considered defenseless.
--- YOU: With a healthy Ben by San Diego, which seems possible, the Steelers still have a good chance to make the playoffs. Also, getting Brown and Troy back will certainly help. With a strong defense and a much improved offense do you think this team can make a run? Not so much to winning a title but perhaps the AFC title game.
ME: I did not think so when they were 7-5 in 2005. That season taught me it’s possible in a situation they are in now. Look at what the Giants did last season. They were 7-7 and went on to win the Super Bowl.
--- YOU: Do you think that Tomlin does a good enough job getting younger players on to the field soon enough? Steve McClendon, when he gets snaps, is highly noticeable in comparison to Casey Hampton. Keenan Lewis has proven to be an above avg cornerback, maybe he could have been before fourth season. Same thought for Worlids and last year’s first round pick that has a pretty clean uniform at the end of every game. I can’t help but think that these players would develop and contribute faster by more playing time.
ME: In certain cases, he does not. They believe Casey Hampton is still playing well. Worilds has been playing behind two Pro Bowlers and plays only when one of them are hurt. Lewis is showing he either should have been in the lineup earlier, or they picked just the right time when he was ready to take on that responsibility.
--- YOU: What's the deal with this fumble by committee approach? Shouldn't a RB have an opportunity to redeem himself? Early in the season when the running game was struggling and Tomlin pulled these guys it was one thing, but I feel like Dwyer has earned the opportunity to get a second chance besides one carry after a second Mendenhall fumble. I would understand it if Dwyer was a chronic fumbler or had a reputation like Tiki Barber did. Redman has laid it down a few times this season & Mendenhall has always carried the ball like a loaf of bread; I don't know how he has managed to protect the ball over the years. Regardless, you noted last season it was obvious that Redman should get the carries over Mendenhall and I think it has been obvious that Dwyer should be getting the bulk of the carries, or at least a second chance under yesterday's circumstances.
ME: Great minds think alike.
--- YOU: Simple question; if you are the Steelers GM would you even attempt to
re-sign Wallace after the season?
ME: Yes, I would, but some of that money that was there in 2012 won’t be there in 2013.
--- YOU: Does knowing the fact that if you fumble you will go to the bench make it harder to successfully run the football? Seems like after the first couple of fumbles the backs looked like they were really trying to cover up the ball rather than hit the open hole.
ME: I would agree with you.
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