Time for Steelers to open up offense

Mark Kaboly says it's time the Steelers stop babying their quarterback and start opening up their offense. He also has a strong opinion about Tony Hills.

Sooner or later … eventually … it just very well may be this week against Tampa Bay, but whenever it may happen, the Steelers are going to need their offense to do more than not turn the ball over.

They're going to have to drive the field, maybe more than once, and maybe late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, and stick the ball in the end zone.

There's no disputing that.

Between now and before Ben Roethlisberger returns from his four-game suspension, it's going to have to happen to help the Steelers win a ball game. You just can't expect them to throw for 40 yards a game and continue winning.

So, what's the best way to get the offense moving? In my mind, the answer is simple: go long.

Even though "Check-Down" Charlie Batch will be guiding the Steelers offense this week, they are going to have to open this thing up.

Now, I'm not calling for them to completely abandon what got them to 2-0: taking care of the ball, running between the tackles, and a whole heck of a lot of defense. But a pass or two beyond the line of scrimmage might be a nice change. That's something that hasn't happened much with Dennis Dixon leading the offense for six quarters and Batch the other two.

Against Atlanta, Dixon attempted 26 passes. Only 2 of them were thrown 20 or more yards down the field.

Against the Titans last week, Dixon attempted 6 passes before he was injured, and 4 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage and the other 2 just barely across it.

Three of the first 4 passes Batch threw were targeted behind the line of scrimmage, too.

Bruce Arians finally loosened up a little and called some down-the-field passes that were successful for the veteran Batch. Arians must've realized he didn't have Dixon playing QB anymore.

Of course, Batch was only 5-of-11 for 25 yards in the game, but 7 of those attempts went at least 10 yards down the field. That's more of what the Steelers need, I feel, to get the offense rolling.

It's understandable why they'd keep Dixon under wraps, but with the experienced Batch calling the shots now they need to open up the playbook.

Batch is capable of making throws down the field and of making plays. You don't have to protect him. He actually does know what he's doing.

The Steelers led the league last year with 77 plays of 20 yards or more, understandably much of that had to do with Roethlisberger. But Wallace, Ward and Miller also played parts in that equation.

Through 2 games, the Steelers have 5 plays of 20 yards or longer, with only 2 of those through the air. It's little wonder the offense has yet to cross the goal line in regulation.

* I admit that I dismissed OL Tony Hills over the past few years. I said he shouldn't even be talked about when it comes to ever contributing to this team, and probably should've been cut a year ago.

Well, I admitted I was wrong.

And then Hills went and got himself in a game last week against the Titans.

Sheesh.

Sure, he was forced into the game under some unusual circumstances, but it was painfully obvious that, while he's improved, he's still not deserving of a helmet on game days.

Hills played 6 series and 25 total snaps and was absolutely overwhelmed.

His second series midway through the third quarter was one of the worst performances I've witnessed. In the 5-play series, Hills' man (Jacob Ford) made 3 straight tackles, a sack, and pressured the quarterback.

In the ensuing 7-play series, Hills' man made 3 tackles. He then surrendered another sack in another series later in the game.

As I said, it was a tough position to put Hills in, but it probably is a position that he shouldn't even have been in.

Ramon Foster's not only a better option, he has more flexibility. He can play both guard positions and both tackle positions and even has a couple of starts under his belt from last year.

That could've certainly helped the Steelers last week when Hills was forced into the left guard spot for a couple of plays for Chris Kemoeatu.

Just another curious decision by Mike Tomlin

* I'm not quite sure how I feel about the wholesale changes that were made across the defensive line last week.

It's understood that the front three needed to take some plays off, but was it wise to replace Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke and Aaron Smith in one fell swoop?

The Steelers did it four times in the second half against the Titans, when the Titans were too far behind to run much. Maybe the Bucs won't be.


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