Harris: Steelers pick a strange time for run
KANSAS CITY — The defending Super Bowl champions are waging an internal war on offense.
On the one hand, the Steelers now fancy themselves as a passing team that ranked No. 8 in the NFL at better than 253 yards per game entering Sunday's disaster against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Before leaving with a concussion-type injury, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 398 yards and three touchdowns.
On the other hand, the Steelers remain an enigma on offense because they appear to be torn between becoming a dominant passing team while attempting to remain true to their successful history as a power-running team.
It was during crunch time of yesterday's shocking 27-24 overtime loss to the Chiefs that the Steelers picked a strange time to return to their offensive roots.
A third-down sweep by running back Mewelde Moore on the Steelers' only possession in overtime — one play after Rashard Mendenhall rushed for an 8-yard gain — resulted in a three-yard loss against the league's No. 27-ranked rushing defense.
Not wanting to gamble on fourth-and-5 from the Kansas City 38 following Moore's unsuccessful run, the Steelers punted, playing the percentages and turning the game over to their defense.
It seemed like a smart move — considering the Steelers' defense had gone 12 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown until the third quarter of yesterday's game.
Ultimately, it backfired for coach Mike Tomlin.
If Roethlisberger described his performance in last week's loss to Cincinnati as him having a "bad day," Tomlin took having a "bad day" to a whole new level yesterday.
"I take responsibility for that performance," Tomlin said after Kansas City drove downfield and kicked the winning field goal. "I have to have this team better prepared to play ... We tried to get a perimeter run to get down inside that (field-goal) range, and we got dropped for a loss."
It wasn't so much that the Steelers ran the ball on third-and-2 when they've made a habit this season of passing the ball all over the lot, particularly on traditional running downs.
Simply put, giving the ball to Moore in that situation was a strange call by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Although Moore is the team's surest-handed running back, he ranks third behind Mendenhall and Willie Parker in terms of getting outside and turning the corner.
Throwing the ball to Moore, who leads Steelers running backs in receptions this season, would have been a higher-percentage call.
"Whatever B.A. (Arians) calls, we have to execute the play," said Hines Ward, who led the Steelers with 10 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. "We can second-guess ourselves, but we're not going to point fingers. Third-and-3, third-and-2, I like our chances with our running backs.
"We called a toss sweep. With the crowd noise, you want to make sure you get everybody out and blocking. I cracked down on the end. Tone (Santonio Holmes) got the linebacker. Usually, when Tone and I got that, we usually get that play. That was a crucial play."
I asked right tackle Willie Colon if the offense is struggling to find the proper mix between the pass and the run.
"It's a lot more complicated than that," Colon said. "Right now, we've just got to find a rhythm, and we've got to execute better."
The Steelers ran 31 times for 114 yards and passed 44 times for 401 yards. More than 500 yards of total offense still wasn't enough to beat one of the league's weakest teams.
In back-to-back losses against Kansas City and Cincinnati, the Steelers have attempted 84 passes compared with only 49 running plays.
That's why it was so shocking to see the Steelers run Moore on a sweep on their biggest offensive play of the game.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chiefs game-plan play that suits speedy rookie Thomas’ talents
- Steelers notebook: Bell says he’s prepared to test Chiefs defense
- Undersized Beachum quietly excels at 1 of game’s pivotal positions
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Veteran tight end Miller’s blocking skill crucial to success to Steelers running game
- Steelers lookahead: Chiefs’ Charles injured but remains dangerous threat
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Steelers offense finding an unprecedented balance when it counts
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Steelers notebook: Chiefs pass rush to test Steelers