For such a critical, unique game and situation, wanted to step outside the box and go in a different direction. Because for the Pittsburgh Steelers to win, it’s going to require some creativity from the coaching staff.
I don’t think the actual gameplan in the first matchup against the Baltimore Ravens was terrible, and wrote as much at the time. But it was far from perfect. I get Todd Haley’s desire to lean on the run game because Ben Roethlisberger was coming off injury and the team was trying to protect him but the Steelers simply can’t run into a brick wall all game long.
3rd and 8 is 3rd and eight and having “balance” doesn’t solve how you convert such a difficult down. Good offenses move the football in spite of balance. Throw the ball 50 times, run it 50 times, it doesn’t matter, and the Steelers are equipped to do either.
But this game screams at doing the former, which will rely on Haley to come through and call a sound game, especially without the services of Ladarius Green and Sammie Coates. Though Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are still sticking around, Haley will have to scheme ways to free up Cobi Hamilton, Jesse James, Eli Rogers, and who knows who else comes into the fold. It sounds like Demarcus Ayers has a role this weekend, a fun gadget guy to mess with, but could go really well or really poorly, depending on what’s called for him.
Because this Ravens’ defense is tough. And running the football is a struggle. Moving the football will come through the air and rest on the shoulders of Haley and, of course, Roethlisberger.
But when they do run the ball, Mike Munchak will have to be just as creative. He’s done a nice job of changing and moving the splits of his offensive line to suit the needs of the playcall. We haven’t talked about it in-depth but have touched on it a few times and is an underrated, even by us in all likelihood, aspect of the run game.
So when the Steelers need a successful run, on third and short, in the red zone, or just on first and ten to kick a drive off, they have to have some measure of success. Pittsburgh won’t run on them the way they did the Buffalo Bills, not even close, but if they can average just four yards per carry, it should be good enough to win.