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Notes from the Cello...

December 09, 2008 by Steel Cello

Hello all,

Sorry I don't post so many articles anymore.  Frankly, I agree with 98% of Mill's comments (although certainly not as critical =) so there is usually no need.

A few thoughts so far this year about the Offense, particularly how every few games we seem to have such an anemic look and feel to it, probably most severe against the Eagles, Giants, and now Dallas.  The big things I notice about how and why this seems to be happening this year include:

1) Lateral Scrambling - Ben is either blocked from moving laterally from the pocket or is just not doing as frequently as he used to.  Thinking back 2-3 years ago,  Ben would drop back and after about 3-4 seconds, he'd take off to his left or right.. no matter what.  This would obviously buy him more time and more options down the field.  I hear a lot from commentators that the Stillers' opponents are now game-planning to 'take the right side' away from Ben, so he'll have to move only to his left....well even though it's not ideal, moving to his left is still better then sitting back in the pocket hoping for someone to get open.  We've seen Ben do well scrambling to his left as well.  I cannot imagine that he is blocked from his left and right on most plays, so I'm guessing that he is just not in the mindset that he used to be where he'd take off and extend so many plays successfully like he used to.

2) Short yardage options - Too many times we see the same offense play:  Ben takes a 7 step drop, all the receivers are running 10+ yard routes, nobody is open, and Ben has no options.  You cannot run an offense like this without a premier offensive line, especially when your WRs are not getting open consistently after 4-5 seconds.  I can even understand if you attempt this type of game-plan early in the game to see if it works.  But once a quarter is done and you have had like one first down, perhaps you might want to put in some West Coast elements into your game plan.  Also, when they do flare out a RB as a safety valve, Ben takes way too long to look his way, in my opinion.  Usually by the time Ben looks left or right to hit the RB, a defender has had time to close in and the RB has no more momentum as they've already ran 7-8 yards down the field.  On 1st and 2nd down especially, Ben should have a 'shorter timer' looking down the field trying to get that 15-25 yard reception and 'settle' for the high-percentage short pass that usually produces 4-8 yards.  The alternative is an unacceptable percentage of negative 3-8 yards when Ben is sacked.  On 3rd down, Ben should continue hold on and try and make something happen, like has does many times, but we have way too many 2nd and longs and we do not seems to have a offense that can recover from them.


3) More Russell - From what I've seen with FWP especially, when he cannot "get it going", he's probably not going to the rest of the game.  The Cowboys were excellent in covering any type of lateral runs, and did well stuffing Willie and Moore up the middle most of the night.  When you are up against a defense that is defending the run well in that manner.. why not put in your best power RB for that job?  While I do notice that Moore seems to run with more authority than Parker and is used more in the passing game, I also think Russell has his place and can add value to certain types of game-plans.  The one primary example from the Dallas game was First and Goal from the 6 in the 4th quarter.  They put Moore in there... maybe to decoy for a pass, which I can understand, but Russell has to be considered for when you need a few power runs.  Next week vs. Baltimore, I would use Russell a great deal.  Check out Willie's stats in his last 3 games vs. Baltimore:


Att Yard Avg
23 42 1.8
10 22 2.2
13 29 2.2


Is there any indication that next game will be any different?  Baltimore's defense is peaking, playing very well... better than the past couple of years even.  My guess would be that Russell could get you 1 yard per carry more on average up the middle vs. that defense vs. FWP.  Willie is a solid back but has his limitations vs. certain types of defenses.  Acknowledge this fact and game-plan accordingly.


4) Gadget-gone - Remember when critics of Malarkey and the Whiz claimed there was too many trick plays and gadgets with ARE and Hines throwing passes back to Ben, for long TDs, or 2 point conversions? Boy those days are really gone aren't they?  I know that ARE is gone, but there is just not enough unpredictability in the play-calling this year.   I remember one flea-flicker we ran a few weeks ago.... I can't think of many other trick plays.  Maybe a fake reverse now and again, but that's it.  The defense is not off-balance enough and it teeing off against are average Oline.  Not that this is any reliable barometer, but I used to not be able to predict what play the Stillers would run next half the time, but I can usually call it these days.




I hope that somehow the Stillers break this current funk they are in and play off their opponents and make better in-game adjustments as I don't think they are playing up to their offensive talent right now.  I'm hoping for a slew of 3-step drops and more power runs this Sunday vs. the Ravens =)

Go Steelers!





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