By Michael K. Reynolds
Starting with the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday and followed by the Baltimore Ravens next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of a run of back-to-back home victories to vault them into serious contention.
But the only way they are going to get this home run is by swinging for the fences.
For this version of the Steelers is not a highly disciplined and experienced team that can win games with singles, bunts and sacrifice flies.
The challenge with their offense is that Ben Roethlisberger has been too inconsistent and his young receivers too unpredictable to be able to sew together long drives with multiple third down conversions.
The Steelers defense is not going to be able to win by lining straight up and hoping to bend but not break. Especially with prolific offenses led by hot quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco invading Heinz Field.
Instead, this year’s winning formula was unveiled last week with bold personnel changes, a wide open playbook on offense and wild abandon on defense. It’s no time to go backwards by getting conservative with two of the top teams in the NFL lining up against them.
Dick LeBeau will need to take chances as he did last week by overloading the box against the run and sending in extra bodies against the pass. Todd Haley will need to roll the dice with his play calling.
So with the idea the team will need to swing for the fences in order to pull off these next two victories here are some suggestions for taking it back….back…back.
Both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Martavis Bryant should be on the field together as much as possible. No need to get creative or complicated with their patterns, just send them deep. Either they’ll get past the secondary in a flash or they will draw enough attention to clear out space for Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller to rip the defense apart underneath.
Down on Dri?
Everyone seems to be down on Dri Archer but what the team needs is more of the speedster and not less. Taking him off of the kickoff return team would be a horrible idea. What? Are you going to bring back Felix Jones? Who cares if Archer ends up getting tackled on the 17 rather than bending a knee and having it placed on the 20? Return all of them young man, even if they fly out of the end zone. Give Archer time and more downs on offense and his jerseys will soon be selling as fast as he is off the racks.
We Miss Cody
The running game has neither clicked as well nor been as nasty since Cody Wallace returned to the bench. Ramon Foster is a decent player but why not see if the Steelers rushing offense is stronger with Wallace in there? Was their 200+ yard performance against the Carolina Panthers an aberration, or does the line work better with the scrappy guard on the field? Let’s find out.
Third Down Dan
Daniel McCullers needs to get a lot more than 9 offensive snaps this game and an easy way for the big fella to get them is to be on the field during passing downs. The current pass rushing schemes of the Steelers have been a major flop thus far so why not try having McCullers crush the pocket and flush Luck out to the dogs?
Shazaam With Shazier
Why ease Ryan Shazier back in? If he’s fully healthy, get him back on the field full time. Both Sean Spence and Vince Williams filled in admirably but neither of them will be getting Pro Bowl mentions for their play. It’s Back to the Future time. Bring in the DeLorean.
Go With Grandpa
Former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison said he would need a few weeks to be in full shape. Time is up. He should be ready to go. Jarvis Jones may be the future when he returns, but Arthur Moats is not. Harrison has not got burned by the pass yet (his supposed weakness) and has completely shut down the edge against the run. He is getting closer to quarterback and if he gets his full time position back, the sacks will start to come. No, he’s not what he once was, but the team is tougher and stronger and makes big plays with him on the field.
Let Tuitt Do-It
Stephon Tuitt came oh-so-close to getting a couple of sacks last week. Give the man the start and keep him in there long enough to get comfortable and he’ll be having the ball boy saving one or two souvenir balls for him this week.