Evolution of the Steelers: These Arent Your Parents Steelers Anymore
Being born in Pittsburgh, I was also born into Steeler Nation. Growing up, I watched Chuck Noll as he produced the finest dynasty ever in the NFL. He did so by stacking a defense with power hitters, smart players, and physical specimens that battered people because they enjoyed it.
Adding to the punishing defense, there was the pounding running game. Franco Harris and Rocky Blier would amaze fans with the ability to run around people, or through them if need be.
As time went on, and the NFL rules changed, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth also took time in the lime light, but make no mistake about it, the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to run the ball and pound you with defense.
It was the blueprint for the dynasty, and it was the way the Steelers were.
As life changes, so does the NFL. No longer can a team win simply by dominating on defense (okay, the 2000 Ravens were the exception to the rule), and no longer can a team run the ball over and over and expect to be successful.
Some teams don't even need to have a running game to be successful. Look at the Greatest show on turf of the late 90's, and the Arizona Cardinals from last year.
It has been a slow transition for the Steelers, but the days of Chuck Noll are fading from the rear view mirror and the days of Mike Tomlin are officially here.
One thing that Mike Tomlin and Chuck Noll have in common is the devastating defense. The 2008 Steelers are the first team to remind me of the original Steel Curtain. Ranking first overall, first against the pass, second against the run, first in points against, and leading almost every other category that is important. That remains the staple of the Steelers.
You can't, however, leave a defense on the field for 60 minutes.
In their opening game against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers rushing game was non-existent. The Steelers rushed for 36 yards on 23 carries, for an average of 1.6 yard per carry.
If this was a one game situation, you could chalk it up to a great defensive effort by the Titans (which, not to take away from the Titans, it was), but the Steelers finished the 2008 season ranked 23rd in the NFL.
The Steelers are no longer the power running team they used to be. In the days of Jerome Bettis, Barry Foster, Bam Morris, and Franco Harris, Pittsburgh rushed to set up the pass.
Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall are never going to be in the class of the above-mentioned men. They just don't have what it takes to play "Steeler football."
Thursday night against the Titans, it was Ben Roethlisberger that led the team to victory, and it was on the strength of his arm and the accuracy of his passes.
Over the course of the offseason, there were many debates about who the best quarterback in the NFL was. After Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who deservedly were one and two on every list, there were many people that put Roethlisberger anywhere from 10-18.
It's because the Steelers have always relied on the running game and always neglected the pass.
Let's look at Ben's stat line for the game against the Titans.
33 of 43, 363 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT (One was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half).
This is the kind of numbers Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning put up. If Ben Roethlisberger is able to perform like this, then the Steelers need to stop living in the past and move into the future.
Ben Roethlisberger, at 27 years old, has the ability to do what Tom Brady has done. Ben Roethlisberger, like on the final drive of Super Bowl XLIII, put the Steelers on his back, and won the game for them twice tonight (twice because the Hines Ward fumble would have been the first).
The offensive line that so many people were up in arms about did a fantastic job for most of the night protecting Ben on pass plays. You can't fault the line when the running backs don't pick up the blitz, or Ben scrambles 19 yards backwards.
I watched the NFL Network's presentation of America's Game, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, and in it, Mike Tomlin calls Ben Roethlisberger a gunslinger. Sometimes he gets shot. And that is true.
Roethlisberger takes more sacks than anyone in football. Watching the game tonight, I noticed that every time someone was near Kerry Collins, he launched the ball to the equipment manager, for either team. I even saw that Dennis Dixon caught one of his passes.
Ben Roethlisberger is not that way. He fights for everything he can get. Does he take sacks because of it? Absolutely. But how many times does he make plays that end up being big for the Steelers? More often than not.
Steeler Nation, it's time to stop wishing for the past to again be the present. It's time for the Steelers to evolve into the dynasty they could be. That will not happen with Willie Parker leading the charge, and it certainly will not happen with Rashard Mendenhall.
The man to lead the Steelers to the promised land again, is Big Ben Roethlisberger.
Does anyone wonder why the Steelers struggle so bad until they go to the no-huddle offense?
Because in the no-huddle, Roethlisberger is the man that calls the plays. The reason the no-huddle works is because Roethlisberger understands his team, and the players, and the defense.
The fact is, everyone reading this is in one of two camps: they will either insist that the Steelers run the ball until it is successful, or the ones that realize that what the Steelers have in Roethlisberger is something special, something that does not happen very often in the NFL.
We can either evolve or stay the same. Evolving means putting Ben in the position to get the stats he is capable of getting, or handcuff him and expect miracles every time.
We all need to remember this Steelers team could be special, and long as we don't expect them to be our parent's Steelers.
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