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Harris: Steelers moving away from running game

| Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009

These are not Bill Cowher's Steelers.

Jerome Bettis isn't walking through that door, neither is Dan Kreider.

What the Steelers are now is an offensive team in transition. The Steelers realize that, which is why they don't have a true fullback on the roster.

The Steelers unveiled a no-huddle, pass-oriented attack in Thursday night's 13-10 overtime win against the Tennessee Titans.

Against Tennessee, the Steelers had a better chance of winning with the pass than the run.

It appears the days of the Steelers featuring a grind-it-out ground game are over.

Steelers running back Willie Parker realizes as much, even after promising better individual results in the second game of the season against the Chicago Bears.

"I blame it on ourselves -- myself, as well. I had a lot of stuff out there I could have done better," said Parker, who rushed 13 times for 19 yards against Tennessee. "Me, as the running back, I'm going to take the blame for it. I never say it's the offensive line. I've got to find a way to make us a better running team.

"We kind of got it together in the second half. We found our rhythm in the no-huddle, so we had to stick with that -- do whatever it takes to win."

Maybe the Steelers should run their two-minute, no-huddle offense the entire game.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was outstanding, completing 33 of 43 passes for 363 yards. He tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes along with two interceptions -- the price you pay for throwing so often.

Roethlisberger's passing success disguised the lack of a running game against Tennessee's 4-3 alignment. The Titans brought eight defenders, including a safety, in the box, daring Roethlisberger to throw.

Running back Mewelde Moore caught four passes -- none longer than 9 yards. Tight end Heath Miller had eight receptions for 64 yards (8.0-yard average). Some of those short passes served as running plays.

In the second half, the Steelers didn't try to hide that they couldn't run. Of their 36 plays from scrimmage, 22 were passes.

Still, in the locker room after the game, some of the Steelers insisted the running game will improve.

"If we played a 3-4 team right now, we'd be great. We don't play a 4-3 team that often, especially in training camp. All you see is virtually 3-4," left tackle Max Starks said. "I think having the opportunity to recognize that will help us in the future because the next two teams we play (Chicago and Cincinnati) are (4-3) teams."

Parker, who had his string of three consecutive 1,200-yard rushing seasons end last year, said the Steelers were their biggest enemy.

"It ain't nothing about a 4-3," Parker said. "We just didn't get the job done."

As a team, the Steelers rushed for 36 yards on 23 carries against Tennessee.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin promised to be patient with the running game.

"There is no question they did a nice job of stacking our running game up," Tomlin said. "... We are going to continue to (run). We are not going to abandon anything we set out to do on any given week. I ask the guys to play like that, so I have to coach like that."

The Steelers did what they had to do against a good Tennessee defense by abandoning the run and relying on the pass. It's a formula we'll likely see more of this season.

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