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Steelers Getting Back To Roots This Camp With The Run Game


Wednesday the Steelers sent a statement to the rest of the AFC North when they took the field in Latrobe, going live with a hitting drill that hasn’t been seen in a very long time.

That statement – get ready, we’re going to run the ball again.

The Black and Gold has gotten away from running the ball, and in this day and age of the NFL when it’s commonplace to have wide outs with gaudy numbers and QB’s with 3 and 4,000 yards throwing, it is starting to sound like the Steelers want to go back to old school.

In other words – “Steelers Football.”

You remember “Steelers Football,” don’t you? That’s when a bruising running back would get the ball and run right into a line that would punch you in the mouth.

That’s when the Steelers would hold the ball for 13-14 plays, and 10-11 of them would be running plays, taking off chunks of yards and beating up an opponents defense.

The new look may not be music to Ben Roethlisberger’s ears, but at the end of the day, this may be the best chance for this team to win games again, something that got away from them last season.

One player that knows about “Steelers Football” all too well is Plaxico Burress. He was on the team in 2004 that ran the ball, and ran it, and ran it.

That season the Steelers went 15-1 in the regular season, and ran the ball with the likes of Jerome Bettis, Deuce Staley, and had a bruising fullback in Dan Kreider.

Now, nine seasons later, Burress is back, and is excited to see if the run game can get back to its roots in the Steel City.

“I mean, this is Pittsburgh. We’re going to run the football, that’s what our offense is going to be about,” Burress said to the USA Today.

“We’re going to have to run the football. The Steelers and running the ball go hand in hand, like a ball and chain. Receivers are committed to helping run the ball, blocking downfield, not just catching the ball and worrying about scoring touchdowns.”

Burress knows all about teams going with a lot of different looks at the wide out spot, and teams running out 4-5 wide receiver sets.

He thinks that the Steelers won’t do as much of that, staying more with good, old fashioned line em up and punch em in the mouth.

“Everybody else around the league is going to be going up-tempo, flashy, four- and five-wide, pistol, shotgun, spread passing. We’re going to stay true to our roots and run the football,” Burress said.

Last season the run game simply couldn’t get yards when they needed to, and the teams leading rusher is a player that may not even be on the roster this year in Jonathan Dwyer.

Dwyer had 623 yards, the lowest total to lead the team since Merrill Hoge rushed for 810 yards for the Steelers in the 1991 season, Chuck Noll’s last.

From the early portion of practices, it sounds like both Isaac Redman and rookie Le’Veon Bell will get carries with the new zone-blocked running game that OC Todd Haley is putting in place.

“We have a lot of guys with a little chip on their shoulders who have been told they can’t run it and aren’t good enough,” Haley said.

“They’ve made the commitment to be better. Inside, outside, there was enough good to be excited about.”

The question is now, can a team that has been built on going downfield with passes and long plays able to get back to the basics of running the ball enough to win?

That will be up to Haley and an offensive line that will get plenty of shots to prove they can get the job done.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. G. K. Nedrow

    August 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Matt, it is more than a little confusing to see a photo from the Giants preseason game attached to a training camp note. I expected to see a recap of the preseason game itself.

    Having said that, your observations here were borne out in the game with the Giants. While we shouldn’t attempt to give undue emphasis to the first preseason game, it seems apparent that Redman and Stephen-Howling were being protected from injury and that Barron Batch and J. Dwyer were given most of the carries because one (or both?) of them will not be on the roster. Tomlin obviously favors L. Bell, given the chatter out of training camp and his high draft number, but tapes of his college games suggest that he is no improvement over Mendenhall. Redman remains the only true power back we have. Stephen-Howling is the only true speed back we have.

    I was favorably impressed with the new zone blocking of the O-line on running plays. With a little work, it will become even more effective than it was against the Giants. The O-line pass protection continues to be a work in progress. Ben R. was sacked far too often.

    For whatever reason, Ben played within the offense in the Giants game and tried to run Haley’s dink and dunk offense. It isn’t exciting to watch, but it can be more effective than the old aerial circus. Having said that, the offense bogged down in the red zone, as it has in the past. It may be that Gradkowski is actually better suited to Haley’s offense; his speed brings another dimension to the QB position; but both QBs have a penchant for throwing ill-advised passes. This offense is still not playing in sync.

    Finally, as I lamented last season, we failed to get a dominant player for the D-line, and it showed against the Giants. Even though the 3-4 is designed for the LBs to get the sacks, the D-line must be capable of walking offensive linemen back to the QB. Our D-line is not getting it done, with the notable exception of Keisel.

    All in all, the first preseason game was not an auspicious beginning to the 2013 season. Media pundits and the fans on the numerous blog sites continue to argue that the Steelers will be hard pressed to make the play offs. So far, that logic seems sound.

  2. Matt Loede

    August 14, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    G.K – thank you for your comment, and please allow me to clear up some confusion on your end.

    This article was written BEFORE the first preseason game, and the pic is from LAST YEARS game in NJ vs the Giants.

    As for your other observations when it came to the run game vs NY, your points are well taken.


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