Notebook: Many Stars On Counter Play

Steelers hand out helmet decals to all of the moving parts, and much more from Thursday.

PITTSBURGH -- After Le'Veon Bell followed the Steelers' pulling blockers into the Cincinnati Bengals' weak side for his biggest runs of the game last Sunday, he called the play "Georgia."

It doesn't have quite the panache of, say, "counter trey," but it's nearly identical to the play Washington used during its late 1980s-early 1990s heyday.

"It's a power counter where you use a pulling a guard and an additional guy. One guy's kicking out, somebody's wrapping," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "We've had it and I think it's something the running back has a real good feel for, and I think the guys blocking it are the key. You've got to make some decisions on the move that are happening real fast that affect your angle of block, and then the back has to read. It's not something you can do with just anybody, but I think we've got some unique guys."

Bell used the play to gain 53 yards on one run, and also to score touchdowns on runs of 13 and 22 yards in the fourth quarter.

To whom would Haley give a helmet decal, so to speak, for the play's strong showing that day?

"I would have to go with David," he said of pulling guard David DeCastro. "The Bengals were tired of seeing him coming around there by the end of the game."

"Give it to Le'Veon," said DeCastro. "He's the guy with the ball. He makes us all look good."

"I give my decal to Beach," left guard Ramon Foster said of left tackle Kelvin Beachum. "If you watch Beach, he was disciplined in his blocking. He ended up pulling the D-end in, which allowed the tight end to go up to the second level. Without him doing that, there might've been penetration right there. I give mine to Beach."

"I would give it to Heath," Beachum said of pulling H-back Heath Miller. "Since somebody already said Dave, who does a great job pulling, I would give it to Heath, who's the next guy around. Really, it's a great combination of all those guys working in tandem on the run and having to make decisions real fast. It's a combination of all those guys and all of us kind of working together at different points in the play that make the play work."

"Can I give two decals?" Miller asked. "I'll say Will Johnson and Matt Spaeth. But Le'Veon always hits it in the right spot, so it's fun. We've been able to do that a few games this year and it's always a good feeling. Against Tennessee we were able to finish and take over in the second half a little bit. We did the same thing against Carolina earlier in the year. I hope we can do it to finish every game the rest of the way."


The 94-yard touchdown catch by Martavis Bryant, in which the rookie receiver ran past Bengals cornerback Leon Hall and widened his separation with each ensuing stride, sparked a debate in the locker room Thursday about an imaginary 4x100 Steelers relay team.

"Brice McCain's out of the blocks," said Ike Taylor. "Dri Archer is my second, Antwon Blake is my third, and Le'Veon Bryant is my anchor."

Le'Veon Bryant?

"Martavis Bryant," Taylor corrected.

"Tay is my second leg," Bell said of Bryant. "First leg is Blake or Brice, and whoever doesn't run the first runs the third. DHB (Darrius Heyward-Bey) is four. I also like Josh (Harris)."

"You have to have somebody come out of the blocks with power," said William Gay. "So I got Josh Harris running 80 meters and Martavis running 120, handing it off to Dri for the curve. You gotta have somebody short and fast to get around the curve. And DHB comes home with it."

Mike Tomlin eventually stepped into the group of players and came out of it with offensive and defensive teams. His offensive team is Archer, Markus Wheaton, Heyward-Bey and Bryant, and his defensive team is Blake, B.W. Webb, Shamarko Thomas and McCain. "We'd beat them," Archer said of the offense. "Coach picked the offense, too."


No one picked Marcus Gilbert for any relay team, but the right tackle who's missed the last two games with an ankle injury practiced for the second consecutive day and should be a go for Sunday's game in Atlanta.

"You might as well pick me to be the coach," Gilbert said of the relay. "But my ankle feels pretty good. There will be little tweaks here and there but at the end of the day I will go out there and help this team try to get this win. I'm excited to be out there with the guys. They're playing phenomenal football."

Taylor (shoulder, forearm) was the only Steeler who didn't participate in Thursday's practice. OLB James Harrison (knee) and center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) were limited.

For the Falcons, WR Julio Jones (hip) missed his second practice of the week, as did CB Robert Alford (wrist) and S William Moore (foot).


Tomlin could be heard in the locker room reminding his special-teams players that "It's Devin Hester Week" out of respect for the Falcons' outstanding return specialist.

Hester is a three-time All-Pro return specialist and member of the 2000s All-Decade Team. He's returned an NFL record 20 combined kickoffs/punts for touchdowns in his career, and this season is averaging 15.4 yards per punt return and 24.1 yards per kickoff return.

"It's definitely a big week. He's the man," said Shamarko Thomas. "He can make anything happen out of any situation."

Many of the Steelers watched him return kicks since they were kids, but Thomas said Hester hasn't lost any speed in his ninth season.

"It shows on film that he hasn't lost any speed," Thomas said. "Especially on that (Georgia Dome) turf. That turf makes him extra fast."

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