'Try It With 11'

One play, during an otherwise spectacular 14-play drive that finished off the New York Jets, showed how the Steelers still need work on the basics. Mike Prisuta explains.

The Steelers have seemingly been trying to make the most of any and every offensive personnel combination, but whatever they think of next will still be governed by an indisputable football tenant:

Those personnel combinations are supposed to be tried 11 players at a time.

That wasn't always the case against the New York Jets.

During that monster 14-play, 75-yard drive in 10:13 for the exclamation point TD in what became a 27-10 victory, the Steelers ran a play with 10 offensive players.

It occurred on first-and-10 from the Jets' 45-yard line, the snap just after the drive had been extended by a defensive holding penalty against safety Yeremiah Bell. The Steelers lined up with a skill-position group that consisted of two receivers (Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders), a tight end (Heath Miller) and a running back (Isaac Redman).

Apparently, neither Ben Roethlisberger nor anyone else noticed there was no fullback in the huddle or in the offensive backfield.

Roethlisberger became aware while peeling himself up off the Heinz Field turf after he'd been sacked for a 3-yard loss.

"(Jets linebacker) Bart Scott said, ‘It might work better if you try it with 11 next time,'" Roethlisberger said.

It might, at that.

The Steelers shook off the miscue and continued marching down the field.

"Just a communication thing," guard Willie Colon said. "We gotta get better."

They'll apparently do so, if they're to do so, as an offensive group.

At running back, the Steelers used Baron Batch (nine times), Chris Rainey (four times) and Redman (once) in the role of third-down back against the Jets.

And the bulk of the caries were split evenly between Redman (12) and Jonathan Dwyer (12).

It's the same at wide receiver.

When the Steelers went with two-receiver sets, they opted for Brown and Mike Wallace or for Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, depending on the situation. When they went with three wide receivers, Cotchery wasn't necessary and left off the field. When they went with one, Sanders was often the one.

So far, an all-for-one attitude prevails. Everyone's doing his part and no one is grumbling about snaps, catches or carries.

"We don't operate like that," Cotchery insisted. "We're very happy with the way things are going. We understand what we're trying to get accomplished. We're trying to win a Super Bowl. From the outside, even before I came here, it always looked like a close-knit group. It didn't look like there was anything tearing this environment apart.

"Since I've been here it's been everything that I thought it would be. You don't see any of that jealously stuff."

The way the team has been constructed this season, Cotchery doesn't see any reason why the Steelers would do it any other way.

"We have four receivers here on the active roster, four guys that do things differently," he continued. "We bring four different dimensions to the offense as receivers.

"It's a rich man's problem. You have a lot of weapons on this offense, not just at the receiver position. You have Heath Miller, and we've seen what Heath has done for a long time now. You have a guy like Will Johnson at fullback, the running backs that we have. We just have a lot of guys that can make plays.

"The coaches are doing a great job trying to get everybody involved."

Just make sure that 11 are involved on every snap.


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