What the Steelers found out Sunday

The Steelers found out Sunday why teams like the Falcons quit using the run-and-shoot offense in the early ‘90s.<p> While you can put up a ton of yards and points with your quarterback and wide receivers playing pitch-and-catch, when it comes time to run out the clock, it's a different matter.<p>

While the Steelers don't use a run-and-shoot offense, they are throwing the ball more than ever before in head coach Bill Cowher¹s tenure. And when it came time for them to nurse a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 34-34 tie with Atlanta, the Steelers, who had spent the majority of the day throwing the ball around Heinz Field like a bunch of guys at a tailgate party, were unable to run out the clock on the ground.

For most of the game, the Steelers lacked a conventional running game. Many will look at the final stats from Sunday¹s game and see that the Steelers rushed for 182 yards on 42 attempts and say the Steelers ran the ball well..

But that simply was not the case. Fifty two of the team's rushing yards came on wide receiver runs and another seven came when quarterback Tommy Maddox was forced to run for his life. Amos Zereoue had 123 yards on 37 carries Sunday, an average of 3.3 yards per carry..

Yet in the fourth quarter, the Steelers insisted on trying to smash the 200-pound Zereoue into the middle of an Atlanta defense that knew he was coming. It just wasn't going to work, especially considering the kind of day Zereoue was having.

For all of his big-play potential, Zereoue continues to have too many negative plays. Sunday, Zereoue touched the ball an amazing 39 times counting two receptions. Of those plays, eight of his carries went for negative yardage, one rush went for no gain, and both receptions were stopped for a loss. That means 28 percent of the time Zereoue touched the ball Sunday, he was getting stopped in the backfield.

Certainly Zereoue is not completely to blame. The offensive line wasn't exactly five blocks of granite. But Zereoue has to realize he must at least get back to the line of scrimmage on those plays. The negative plays are killers.

Here are some more thoughts from a sports writer who doesn't even like to wear a tie, let alone watch one:

  • Cowher bristled when I questioned the play calling and decision-making late in the game Sunday. But the bet here is that is exactly what he was doing Monday when watching the game film.

    Knowing just how competitive Cowher is, he's kicking himself for going into the Dean Smith four corners offense in the fourth quarter and also for attempting a 48-yard field goal into the open end of Heinz Field in overtime.

    He was probably questioning himself for doing it at the time. He just didn't want me questioning him.

    I wasn't questioning, I was just asking.

  • If you're looking for a nickname for Heinz Field, how about the Sand Trap? I realize that many of Heinz products are used at picnics, but do we really need a beach for a field? After the game, field crews spent the better part of an hour raking the sand into piles, gathering it up, and then spreading it back onto the field.

    Don¹t worry, it's a union job, so they're being well paid for digging a hole and then filling it back in.

  • Lots of people are going to be calling for kicker Todd Peterson's head after he missed an extra point and two field goals Sunday. But the bottom line again is that there are no veteran kickers available who are better or at least none who are dumb enough to subject themselves to kicking at the Sand Trap.

    And Cowher isn't patient enough to deal with a young kicker. Then again, Sunday's performance may have been the last straw.

  • How rare are ties in the NFL? I polled eight players after the game. Of those, five thought the teams would line up and keep playing after the first overtime. Only one, Alan Faneca, had ever been involved in a tie before, and that had come in high school.

    If there's no crying in baseball, there should be no tying in football. This isn't hockey.

  • Part A of Rule 7, Section 4, Article 1 in the NFL rulebook states, "An official shall declare dead ball and the down ended: when a runner is out of bounds or declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance."

    You can bet Plaxico Burress, being a well-read young man, had complete knowledge of that rule.

    Want to buy a bridge?

  • The biggest thing to watch this week will be how the Steelers recover from Sunday¹s tie. While the Falcons considered it a win, the Steelers were looking at it like a loss, and deservedly so. Under normal circumstances, the team pretty much forgets about a loss a few hours after it happens.

    But the circumstances of Sunday¹s game may allow this one to have a lingering effect.

  • --Dale Lolley




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