The Pittsburgh Steelers have a combined 246 rushing attempts this season in comparison to 477 pass attempts, the most in the NFL. Anybody striving for a traditional sense of balance in the run/pass ratio must be gravely disappointed, as the Steelers are only running the ball 34 percent of the time, and that includes quarterback scrambles and excludes sacks.
But does it concern Head Coach Mike Tomlin? Not one bit, because he believes that his team is capable of doing both, at a high level and with frequency if they so choose. Asked about it during his pre-game press conference earlier today, he gave a very long and thoughtful answer on the subject.
“We want to have the ability to step into the stadium and dictate our personality that day”, he began. “I’ve been open about that. Sometimes we’ll come into a stadium and be run-heavy and be focused on that. Sometimes we’ll come into a stadium and be capable of throwing it every down. It’s how we choose to attack. We’re thoughtfully non-rhythmic if you will in that regard”.
I don’t know about you, but ‘thoughtfully non-rhythmic is my favorite Tomlinism, so it was nice to see that one get dusted off. But more importantly, he went on to define what he means when he talks about balance.
“We strike for balance, and balance being we’re capable of attacking in the ways that we choose. I think that makes it tough on defenses”, he said. “I think that makes us a tough unit to beat. We’ll go through games where we’ll throw it a lot like we did last week and there are positive ramifications of that for the run game”.
Likewise, he said, it could work in reverse fashion. “We’re cognizant of all of that and that’s why we don’t mind changing our personality based on gameplanning. But it starts with just having quality people and being able to do a bunch of things. We’ve got solid guys upfront that are adept at run-blocking and pass-blocking. Ben’s got a nice arsenal of receivers, and James is doing a nice job of running the ball. So that’s why we work hard for balance”.
Tomlin called it a “continual discussion” regarding “how we want to choose to attack people in an effort to keep people off-balanced, to ring up the scoreboard, and make the movement of the ball a more fluid process. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to be able to run it, we’re going to have to be able to throw it, and sometimes those things are not within our control”.
“Sometimes the commitment of those that we play in certain areas dictate how you approach it”, he went on. “Sometimes your own whims and wishes dictate how you approach it. But the reality is if you want to be a team that stays on the road as it gets narrow, you better be able to do both well. So that’s what we strive to do, not only this week in preparation for this opportunity, but largely”.