These are not your father's Pittsburgh Steelers.
I was born in 1970. Before the Steelers were famous for anything but losing. But that changed a few short years later, and for pretty much my entire life, the Pittsburgh Steelers were synonymous with three things: a hard-nosed rushing attack, a swarming, hard-hitting defense, and a blue-collar ethos.
Two outta three ain't bad.
You often hear about the stability of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, often mentioned in the same breath as the fact that they've had only three head coaches in 40 years. All of whom are proven Super Bowl winners I might add.
However you might look at this incredible stability in the coaching position over such a long time, Mike Tomlin appears to be defying that very definition of stability, and Steeler football, by turning this team on its ear. And fans had better get used to it.
The Steelers are beginning to embrace a "throw-first" offensive mentality. And why not? The front office sold out to Ben Roethlisberger, the 100-million-dollar man, making him the face and future of the franchise. Even Jerome Bettis can see that it would be a waste of all that money not to wring every last penny's worth out of Ben's career. Even in an era of quarterbacks amassing unbelievable statistics, no quarterback is more heart-stoppingly electrifying than Ben Roethlisberger, what with his seemingly endless repertoire of last-minute heroics.
Lots of fans point the finger at the offensive line, and say that they just can't run-block. Many also point at the zone-blocking scheme of offensive line coach Larry Zierlien, and say that it's the reason why the run game has been looking more and more sickly and anemic with each passing game since the Bus rolled into the sunset. Still others say offensive coordinator Bruce Arians simply doesn't believe in the run, preferring to let games ride on Ben's arm.
Some people even blame Willie Parker, saying he's over the hill, losing a step (or two). Mendenhall is a bust. Most baffling, some people are saying that Mewelde Moore, our third-down back, is our best option at running back. They're half right... he's not the best option because he's got the most talent; he's the best option because he fits a pass-first offense the best.
So get used to it. The Steelers are no longer synonymous with a smash-mouth running style. And that isn't likely to change, the way I see it. Not because we don't have any talent on the O-line, or because our running backs just can't pound the ball, or because the coaches can't or won't establish the run.
It won't change because there's no need. The same mentality that gave you the "we'll run Willie Parker until the wheels come off" will do the same with Roethlisberger. He'll drop back and pass until one too many sacks brings his career to an end. Maybe then the Steelers will think about getting the running game going again, but I'm not holding my breath until then. Besides, change isn't always bad... this new approach is what got us that sixth Lombardi trophy.
It'll just take a lot of Steeler fans some time to get used to it.