Steelers' run game returns to power
It is too early to say, after just one game, whether the Steelers will be a power-running team with Ben Roethlisberger playing quarterback.
They are off to a promising start in that department, and the Steelers will need the kind of offensive balance they showed this past Sunday in a 28-10 win against the Browns as they embark on the meat of their schedule.
Their next four opponents have won 62 percent of their games. Starting Sunday in Miami, the Steelers play their next three games on the road.
Not that wide receiver Hines Ward is daunted by what lies ahead for the 4-1 Steelers.
"If we continue to mix it up and stay balanced," he said, "I like our chances this year."
One reason: Ward's faith in a running game that is averaging 131 yards this season and is among the NFL's top-10 teams in that category.
Ward said the Steelers are "10 times better" this season when it comes to running the ball — and specifically, imposing their will against opposing defenses.
They ground out 44 of their 121 rushing yards against the Browns in the fourth quarter while protecting a double-digit lead.
And the Steelers appear better equipped to play the kind of power football that has long been their trademark but is something they strayed from last season.
Rashard Mendenhall runs with a more of a bruising style than Willie Parker, his predecessor. Isaac Redman has given them a different dimension at fullback and should only improve as a blocker.
Injuries, meanwhile, haven't prevented the offensive line from showing significant improvement -- as well as the kind of attitude that is required to run right at opponents.
"There's a lot more talking (among the offensive linemen) in the huddle than there was last year," Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "This year it's 'Let's go,' pumping each other up, 'We've got to finish this drive, we've got to move the ball.' "
3 questions with Will Allen
Is there anything that has surprised you since joining the Steelers' organization?
"I love the camaraderie. Everybody's here for the same goal. Nobody's here for selfish ambition, and it's genuine. They build a team community here, and I just love being around it because it just makes the game so much easier when you know everybody's working towards that goal. Winning is our business, and that's what I love about it. It reminds me a lot of college. In college, everybody has to be close-knit because there's such a fine line between winning and losing."
What is on your bucket list?
"My bucket list is to go to every major sporting event that is world-known, from the Kentucky Derby to the Daytona 500 to the running of the bulls (in Pamplona, Spain). I want to go to a major cricket match, go to the World Cup, go to Augusta to see the Masters, stuff like that. I haven't been to anything yet, so I've got to do it."
What player in the locker room always makes you laugh?
"Larry Foote, because he went to Michigan and is from Michigan and I'm from Ohio. He's loud, obnoxious (laughs). No, he's a great guy. I enjoy him a lot. He always gives me crap, but he's always got my back."
3 players to watch
Chad Henne, Dolphins QB — Miami is 0-2 when he passes for more than 300 yards and 3-0 when he throws for less than that benchmark.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers QB : Will try to build on solid season debut; Fins fans won't be nearly as welcoming in his first road game since returning from a four-game suspension.
Cameron Wake, Dolphins OLB : Penn State and Canadian Football League product is tied for third in the NFL with six sacks.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, on inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who has 59 tackles, three sacks and an interception:
"Lawrence is a big-time talent. He runs to the ball, he creates plays because of his range because of how he hustles. He's becoming a veteran player. He just does good work for us, consistently, week in and week out."
Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, on his weekly competition with fellow rookie and good friend Antonio Brown for a spot on the game-day roster:
"I always tell Antonio, 'Someday, we're going to be out there together.' That's the day we're waiting on, but right now, the situation is the situation, so we've got to make it as competitive as we can. "We're making each other better every day because we know there's only one hat out there, and like coach Tomlin says, there's two dogs and one bone."
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, on outside linebacker James Harrison, who knocked two players out of Sunday's game and is on pace for more than 14 sacks this season:
"I hope I don't owe him any money or anything. He's a beast. He's our emotional leader. He's not really a vocal guy. He just goes out there and leads by example, and he plays his tail off every single play."
By the numbers
1 : NFL rank of the Chargers after Sunday's games in total offense, passing offense, total defense and passing defense
2 : Chargers wins through six games
9 : Sacks allowed by the Steelers
13 : Sacks allowed by the Steelers through first five games of 2009
202 : Rushing yards, a season-high, the Steelers had in their 30-24 win at Miami this past January