The problems with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense have been obvious for years, and it has become quite clear that the source of those problems is now gone. In just a few months on the job, Todd Haley has identified that his quarterback is very good at the play-action pass and that running the ball more effectively will help improve that facet of the offense.
Why couldn't Bruce Arians figure out in five years what Haley has begun to implement in just two OTAs? Who knows? But the important thing is that the Steelers offense now has a direction—a very good direction.
As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers offense will be using a fullback in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the running game as well as use the backs more out of the backfield in the passing game.
The news that will get many fans excited is that the Steelers will now have a designated fullback on the roster.
"Yeah, there's a fullback in the offense," Redman said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). "They moved David Johnson over to fullback. He's not a tight end anymore, he's strictly a fullback now."
While Johnson has not been stellar at fullback, the devotion to the position will mean that he can focus his attention on perfecting his craft rather than doubling as a tight end as Redman points out.
"That's going to help develop him," Redman said (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), "now that he's in our meeting rooms and being able to see what type of blocks that we have, and what type of blocks that we want from him. Instead of him being a tight end in the tight-end room and kind of doing fullback as a second job, he's strictly focusing on fullback. I think that will help him a lot."
Johnson will compete with Will Johnson for the starting fullback role in what should be an intriguing competition.
Not only did the Steelers identify that they want a fullback to be a part of the offense, but more importantly, it shows that they are having a philosophical change with what they plan to do under Haley, and it appears that they are committed to improving the run.
The new commitment to the ground game is what is exciting, not naming a fullback. Let's be clear, too, we are not talking about a ground-and-pound offense, but instead, one that can use the run to set up the play-action pass.
There are few quarterbacks in the league as good as Roethlisberger when it comes to the play-action passing attack, and it is hard to believe the Steelers have gone so long without it being a staple of their offense. With Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown as deep threats, the Steelers should be in store for some big plays when they catch defenses looking for the run off-guard.
A strong ground game should help draw defenders close to the line, and the offseason moves so far have shown that the Steelers are serious about improving this area of the offense.
By moving Johnson to fullback and adding David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the draft, they have significantly improved the blocking in front of Redman, who may be the most important component to an improved ground game.
Redman is a powerful runner who rarely is stopped for a loss, so in other words, the complete opposite of Rashard Mendenhall. Now, with improved blocking in front of him, he will be even tougher to stop.
An effective running attack will help draw defenders to the line, which will provide the offense with plenty of opportunities to take their shots down field to Wallace and Brown. This will be much less predictable than what we have seen over the past several seasons. More importantly, it will be a better option than letting Roethlisberger scramble all over the field trying to avoid bltizing defenders before he heaves up a bomb on an improvised play.
Roethlisberger already throws a good deep ball and will finally get a chance to go back to one of his strengths and one that does not get him sacked 50 times a season. Haley will win a lot of fans if the Steelers are able to execute this area of the offense.
Pittsburgh will also look to throw the ball to the running backs out of the backfield. Redman has surprising soft hands for a big back, and Baron Batch and Chris Rainey are both threats in this area as well. By dumping the ball off to the backs, Roethlisberger will also save some unnecessary hits while potentially creating a big play.
All too often, we have watched Roethlisberger scramble and then take a sack or take an unnecessary risk down field when a running back is standing wide open for a potential big gain. By emphasizing using the backs in the passing game, Roethlisberger will be less prone to taking unnecessary hits while improving the chance of big plays.
The improved athleticism on the offensive line should be able to get out in front and block for the running backs looking to make plays in the passing game. Who knows, maybe the Steelers will even look to develop screen passes to the running backs.
As it stands now, the offense is perfectly set up for a play-action style of play, and it just took a coordinator change to finally realize this. As simple as it seems, Haley is designing an offense to his team's strengths, and that should reflect in the overall production of the offense in 2012.
The days of exploiting their own weaknesses is gone for the Steelers offense. With the new system in place, they have a chance to be one of the top offenses in the league, and this will carry them a long way this season.
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