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Insider Only It’s time to ditch the run-first mentality & turn the calendar from 1976 to 2009

Spend a couple days in the Steelers locker room and it is easy to tell which players have rabbit ears when it comes to media feedback. Take Ben Roethlisberger this week for instance.
The Steeler QB usually acts as if he never reads a paper, hears a talk show, or sees a TV sportscast. He loves to act as if he is above such action. After all, he IS Ben Roethlisberger.
Why does he need to see or hear what people say about him? And frequently, when Roethlisberger is asked about something that was said or written in the media, he acts as if he has no idea what you are talking about.
Yet Ben also frequently throws media speculation, prediction, and hype back in the faces of reporters during his weekly media confrontations with scribes and mich jockeys at the UPMC Southside complex.
Funny how you can do that when none of it ever reaches your ears, eh?
Last February it was: “All YOU GUYS were saying we didn’t have an offensive line to win the Super Bowl.”
In August it was: “I know all YOU GUYS were saying my arm was sore.”
This week, when asked about the lack of a Steeler run game, it was: “All YOU GUYS in the media, all over the country, say that if we throw the ball 25 times in a game we can’t win. So we quietly laugh. At all of YOU GUYS. More than usual.”
“So it’s not a chuckle…it’s like a laugh out loud,” a reporter quipped back.
”Yeah, we laugh at you guys….blatantly.”
You know what’s funny? I laugh at quarterbacks too. Like for instance when they take 19 yard sacks, or throw interceptions into triple coverage, or ask hotel employees to come fix their telev…
Uh, never mind.
His arrogance and snobbery aside Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback. He may be on the verge of a Hall of Fame career. For the sake of the Steelers, he better be. After all, their All Pro running game has gone to hell.
It did nothing in the pre-season. It was spotty at best for most of the year in 2008, ranking 23rd in the NFL. And there were no signs of improvement in this year’s season opener last Thursday. The Steelers rushed for just 36 yards on 23 carries that night vs. the Titans.
“I had a meeting with my offensive linemen,” said Steeler Running Back Willie Parker on Monday, “And I told them we need get this thing going again. I put the blame on my shoulders. I’m the runner. So if we ain’t runnin’, it’s on me. But I told them, I want this running game to be the talk of the town again.”
So when it comes to Parker I’m pretty sure he REALLY doesn’t listen to what the media has to say. Because if he did, he’d know the running game has been the talk of the town for a month. In fact the whole city of Pittsburgh seems to be fretting over it.
Here’s a small sample of what fans and US GUYS in the media have been saying: Parker is on the down side of his career. The offensive line can’t run block. Rashard Mendenhall is a bust. Frank Summers isn’t a real fullback. And Mewelde Moore is just a third down option for Roethlisberger.
Sadly there is very little evidence to suggest anything to the contrary. As a long time Parker supporter, it hurts me to say that those who complain about him and the run game may actually now have a point.
Parker was a good back. He’s been the main tailback on a team that won two Super Bowls. He had three straight seasons over 12-hundred yards.

Jerome Bettis never did either of those things. But because Parker was never as instantly embraced as “The Bus”, his merits aren’t remembered very quickly now that the run game is struggling so much. And the heat is just getting worse. I don’t think the run game should be totally abandoned. I don’t think Parker stinks. And I think it’s too soon to call both Mendenhall and Summers total wash-outs. But,

I also want to see the Steelers win. And, it’s clear now that Ben Roethlisberger is right about what he said earlier. It’s time to ditch the 25 pass attempts per game measuring stick with the club. It’s time to reconfigure the whole Steeler paradigm. Ditch the run-first mentality. Turn the calendar from 1976 to 2009.
The Steelers need a run game at some point in this season. They’ll probably need one at some point this week against Chicago, actually. But this running game isn’t worthy to force simply in the name of “old fashioned Steeler football.” If that means more of Moore in the backfield, and less of Parker (and none of Mendenhall and Summers), so be it.
Consider the Steeler run game a secondary option. For now. Until…or unless…it gets itself better.
Consider Mewelde Moore the go-to back for his ability to catch the ball out of the back field. Until… or unless… the line starts opening holes for Parker. And Parker starts hitting them again.
And once again, per Parker’s request, the Steeler run game becomes the talk of the town in Pittsburgh; or at least shares the front pages with Roethlisberger’s passing game.
Too bad Big Ben will be too disinterested to read the articles from US GUYS in the media.

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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