Steelers won't change scheme after Pouncey injury
Two years ago, the Steelers had plans of incorporating outside zone runs into their offense to take advantage of an athletic line and a rookie running back who thrived in that kind of scheme.
Eight plays into the season, that all changed.
Maurkice Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL on the first drive of 2013, and the new blocking scheme the Steelers worked on through the spring and summer was discarded.
This time, that won't happen. The Steelers are moving forward with the same offensive mindset as if they had a healthy Pouncey.
Pouncey broke his left fibula near his ankle against the Packers, which will land him on the injured reserve/designated to return to start the season.
The designation will keep Pouncey out a minimum of the first six weeks. He more likely will return some time after the Nov. 22 bye.
Despite veteran journeyman Cody Wallace having a different playing style than Pouncey, the Steelers' record-setting offense from last season won't deviate from their playbook to suit him.
“Not really,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “We might have had a few what we called ‘gadget plays' that involved the center that we might not be able to get to that would've been a down-the-road thing anyway.”
Pulling the center will remain in the game plan in the run game. So will the expectations for Wallace to get to the second level to block linebackers and to make all of the calls along the offensive line, even though he has started only four career games at center.
Haley pointed to a second-level block Wallace executed on Julius Peppers during last week's preseason game against the Packers as an example.
“Not much will change that way,” offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “We will see as the games develop. There were things that we would put in because he could do something more, but it won't limit us in any way.”
Even though there are similarities to what transpired in 2013 with the loss of Pouncey, there are differences that make this year's team more equipped to deal with losing their All-Pro center.
Two years ago, the running game faltered after Pouncey's injury and was the second worst in the history of the organization and lowest (86.4 yards per game) in a 16-game schedule. The offense finished 20th in the league as the Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
The Steelers also were without Le'Veon Bell and Heath Miller for the early part of the season.
“Two years ago when it happened, I was concerned,” Haley said. “The fact that we went through it with a lot of the same people means something. I think we came a long way as a group.”
The offensive line wasn't as established, either. Mike Adams started at left tackle before getting benched a quarter of the way through the season, and David DeCastro was coming off a knee injury that sidelined him most of his rookie year.
“The big thing now is that we have practice time, and that is something that we didn't have last time,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We aren't going to change up much at all. We just can't just bag a lot of stuff because Pouncey is down right now.”
Wallace is more of a brawler and finisher than a typical center.
“Everybody has their strengths and weakness, and I will go out there and do what I do best,” Wallace said.