Greatest Show on Grass? Could the Steelers Offense Be Like the 99-01 Rams?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IMarch 5, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers calls a play in the huddle against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 31-25.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Steelers are great because of their defense.

The Steelers are only as good as their running game takes them.

The Steelers are NEVER going to be a team that scores a lot of points.

Ben Roethlisberger is simply along for the ride.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans have heard for years (actually since they drafted Ben Roethlisberger) that the only reason they have had any success at all is because of the above mentioned points. Yes, we are all tired of hearing them.

The reality is, one of the greatest offenses of all time was the 1999-2001 St. Louis Rams, and their "Greatest Show on Turf." They had that title, because when their offense was on the field, they were a threat to score every time they had the ball.

You had Marshall Faulk, one of the latest men to have his name join Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was amazing in the backfield. From being one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL, to catching passes out of the backfield, to picking up blitzes. He has earned his place.

Then they had Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Az-Zahir Hakim as the receiving tandem. Holt and Bruce were the starters, with Az as the deep threat. With a future Hall of Fame QB in Kurt Warner (who couldn't be HoF worthy with those kinds of threats?) the Rams were electrifying to watch.

The Rams also had a coach that HATED to run the football, regardless of the situation, and wanted to put as many points on the board as humanly possible with Mike Martz.


Kurt Warner / Ben Roethlisberger

Many people will be quick to point to the fact that Kurt Warner NEVER had games where he played like Ben Roethlisberger. Warner, however, is one of the best all time players, and Ben Roethlisberger can not even shine the mans shoes!


When Kurt Warner was Ben Roethlisberger's age, he was playing football in the Arena League, and bagging groceries for a living.  Roethlisberger not only has more experience at this point than Warner had, but he has also taken his team to THREE Super Bowls at an age younger than when Warner started playing football.

Roethlisberger is also considerably better than Warner when it comes to making plays with his feet. Warner was a statue, but Ben actually plays better while on the run.

The one thing these two men have in common? Both have rocket arms able to throw deep bombs, but enough accuracy to use the intermediate routes, and allow the receivers to make plays with their feet.


Marshall Faulk / Rashard Mendenhall

I am not saying for a second that Mendenhall is yet to the level of Marshall Faulk. Again, like Warner, Faulk did not become "elite" until he joined the Mike Martz staff with the Rams. Yes, he was great with the Colts, but the reason that they traded Faulk to the Rams was because they believed Edgerin James would be better.

The Steelers Mendenhall is only 23 years old, and has improved in every season he has been in the NFL. He has gotten better at catching the ball out of the backfield, and with his offseason cross training of dancing, he has become more elusive.

Does this mean that Mendenhall will one day be elected to the Hall of Fame?  Hardly, but as he continues to get better, no one knows where the ceiling for his talent will be.


Torry Holt / Mike Wallace

Both Holt and Wallace were/are blazing fast players with an amazing ability to stretch a defense. They commanded the defenses commit a safety to preventing deep passes, and when they didn't, they were burned.


Isaac Bruce / Hines Ward

Both of these men were/are two of the best possession receivers in the game. Though neither had crazy speed, they ran great enough routes that they would beat the defending corners by skill instead of speed.

With the opposition having to commit the safety to the faster receivers, it allowed single coverage to the slot player, giving him an advantage against most teams.


Az-Zahir Hakim  / Emmanuel Sanders OR Antonio Brown

The key trait in these three men is that they have amazing speed. I am not sure which one is going to earn the third receiver role for the Steelers in 2011, but either of them has the potential to do so (and when Ward retires, they both have the potential to be the Steelers' number two). Hakim benefited from being able to be third to Bruce and Holt, because he always drew the oppositions worst corner, allowing him to beat them over the top, much like Sanders and Brown do.

Again, I am not saying that Sanders or Brown will ever be considered the best in the NFL, but when Hakim left the Rams to sign with the Lions, he showed that he didn't have top receiver talent, and was successful because of the system he is in.


Ricky Proehl / Sanders OR Brown

This year, Sanders or Brown will be the fourth receiver like Proehl was, and either of them is going to be better than Proehl was. They are both faster and have break away ability unlike Proehl did.

Add to that, the Steelers have Heath Miller, who is slowly earning the respect around the NFL as one of the elite tight ends. He is an amazing outlet for when Roethlisberger gets in trouble, and is a better blocker than anyone the Rams had during those days.  Did the Rams even HAVE a tight end on those teams?

Mike Martz / Bruce Arians 

Am I the only one that sees the similarities in these two guys? Ben Roethlisberger loves Arians because he allowes him to throw the ball. That is what QB's like to do, and if it works, then you have to go with it. Neither Martz or Arians cares about the running game because neither of them uses a full back AT ALL.

If Mike Tomlin were to take the reigns off of Arians, then the Steelers would throw the ball as much as the Rams did.

A friend of mine (Bryn Swartz) wrote an article titled, The Greatest Show On Turf: The Dynasty That Never Was, about those Rams teams. The reason, I believe that those Rams teams suffered, was because of their lack of defensive ability.

Many people believed that the Rams' lack of defensive talent was because they used too many picks on offense. Some say it is because of coaching. Others say they just weren't that good.

That is something that the Steelers certainly don't have a problem with. The Steelers defense is routinely one of the best in football. No one runs against them. In 2010, they were first in the NFL in rushing defense by over 30 yards per game. If they can improve their secondary, they will be a scary team to play against. Well, scarier.

Yes, the Steelers' offensive line is not as good as the Rams' was, but they have taken strides with Maurkice Pouncey anchoring the middle. Provided they get him some help this offseason, there is no reason to believe that the Steelers could not do what the Rams once did.

And, maybe, even be better.


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