Steelers' offense evolving

After passing up a chance to get the kind of big back they've long ridden to success and instead polishing their receiving game, the Steelers suddenly look like an offense in transition.

The team that ran the ball more than any other in the NFL each of the past two seasons struck for more supremacy in the air by drafting Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the first round and Florida State wide receiver Willie Reid in the third.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher insists his offense won't change, but those aren't the signals his actions are sending out.

"We aren't going to get away from running the football," Cowher promised. "We aren't changing our approach to the game."

Both Cowher and his offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, noted that they had to get more help in the passing game for their young quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

"I think with the quarterback that we have, the ability to put some weapons around him is important," Cowher said.

Whisenhunt added that Roethlisberger earned more opportunities to throw by his performance in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh had the chance to replace the retired Jerome Bettis by drafting USC's LenDale White at the end of the first round. After passing on him, the Falcons offered them T.J. Duckett; the Steelers were interested, but only for a fifth-rounder, not the third-rounder Atlanta wanted in 2007.

Now the Steelers' offense looks more like it's built for the old Run-and-Shoot with smaller, fast and quick receivers (Hines Ward is the tallest among the top four at 6 feet), with a fast and quick back in Willie Parker and a quarterback who loves to throw on the run.

"I think you have to give Ben an opportunity to get a guy that can stretch the field," Cowher said. "We have some guys now with Heath (Miller) being able to occupy the middle. Hines, you know what he's been able to do. Cedrick has been able to do that as well. I don't know if you can do enough of that."

It does not take a Sherlock Holmes - rather, a Santonio Holmes -- to figure out the Steelers loaded up for the pass.

"There is a possibility that we can throw the ball a lot more by the draft picks," Holmes said.

"Things happened at Ohio State the same way, we had always been a running team. After a while, we started getting some of the better athletes at wide receiver to come into Ohio State and Coach (Jim) Tressel saw that and decided to open up our offense a lot more and give us the opportunity to make more plays. Hopefully, the same thing can happen here at Pittsburgh."


--WR Santonio Holmes, who wore No. 4 at Ohio State, will wear No. 10 with the Steelers. That number was last worn by Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh.

--The Steelers mini-camp takes place Saturday through Monday (May 13-15). They will hold their spring workouts through June 8.

--Steelers coaches and officials say they aren't worried that Holmes cannot participate in their spring drills except for their three-day mini-camp. Since Ohio State does not have graduation until mid-June, none of the Buckeyes drafted this year can participate with any NFL team before then, except for one mandatory mini-camp and unless the player already has graduated. The NFL policy has been in place to appease the NCAA.

--The Steelers will receive their Super Bowl rings June 2, the same day they visit the White House.

--Duce Staley may get the first crack at replacing Jerome Bettis in short yardage behind Willie Parker, but four-year pro Verron Haynes will compete with Staley for that job.

"I think Verron Haynes is a guy that you can't overlook," Cowher said of his third-down back. "I think Verron is a guy that has been waiting in the wings. We're going to let that thing unfold. I don't have any preconceived thoughts going in. I'd like to let it play out and see where it goes from there."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am from the South Bronx, and I had to lock myself in the closet so I can talk to you guys." -- T Willie Colon, talking to the press over the din of a party after the Steelers drafted the Hofstra player in the fourth round.

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