Steelers plan to holster 'pistol'
At 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, Ben Roethlisberger is big.
For the most part, Roethlisberger's size is a good thing when it comes to the Steelers' offense.
A month ago, it was a real detriment ... to the run game.
How big Roethlisberger is wasn't really appreciated by his backfield mates the last time the Steelers and Ravens met Dec. 5 in Baltimore.
With a banged-up foot limiting Roethlisberger's mobility, the Steelers had no choice but to install the 'pistol' formation mere days before playing their rivals.
As much as it helped Roethlisberger battle through his ankle injury to throw for 253 yards and a touchdown is how much it hurt the Steelers' running game against an already stout Ravens' run defense.
"We had to sacrifice," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "It was the only way we could get him in the game. It hurt (the running backs) a little bit."
The Steelers rushed for a season-low 54 yards on 24 carries. Roethlisberger lined up midway between his normal position under center and in the shotgun because of his lack of mobility.
"Ben is a big guy, and standing behind him is kind of hard to see your read," said running back Isaac Redman, who scored the game-winning touchdown against the Ravens. "It is tough to be able to scan the entire defense. We just had to deal with it."
The Steelers, actually, had a tough time dealing with it.
Roethlisberger ran the offense out of the pistol 15 times, with five rushes for 11 yards in the formation.
When they switched back to the conventional formation in the second half the Steelers were just as inept, gaining only 34 yards on 17 carries. They had 84 yards rushing during the first meeting Oct. 3.
"When we did come out of the 'I,' he was kind of limping over to give us the ball and it was slowing our read down," Redman said.
Roethlisberger has a reason why it didn't work very well.
"We practiced it three days before the game," Roethlisberger said. "It was the first time any of us had done it. It was hard for all of us to get used to, but we had to do it."
Actually, Redman said that the team wasn't aware they were going to use the offense until late in the week, another possible reason why the run game sputtered.
"We were practicing it, and they were saying that it was just for practice and we weren't going to run it," Redman said. "We weren't too worried about it, then when it got to later in the week they said we were probably going to run it."
The Steelers aren't going to have to worry about the pistol formation this week because Roethlisberger's foot hasn't limited him at all lately, but the offense still might have problems running the ball.
After allowing 96 yards rushing to the Chiefs during the first half of last week's AFC wild-card game, the Ravens gave up 12 in the second half.
Add to that the Ravens always being stout against the Steelers' run game — allowing just one 100-yard game over the past 12 — and yards on the ground may be tough to come by with or without the pistol.
"It is important in every game to establish the run, but at the same time, however the game flows, we have to be prepared to do whatever," Mendenhall said. "We always want to go into the game with the mindset of establishing the run."
It just may be something a little easier with the pistol tucked back in its holster.
The Steelers' offense was forced to go to the 'Pistol' formation a number of times against the Ravens during the last meeting because of the injured foot of Ben Roethlisberger. Here is the breakdown of the result of their pistol formation plays:
Rashard Mendenhall run (2 yards)
Mendenhall run (2 yards)
Mendenhall run (2 yards)
Complete pass (0 yards)
Complete pass (25 yards)
Mendenhall run (0 yards)
Complete pass (18 yards)
Mendenhall run (5 yards)
Complete pass (13 yards)
Complete pass (9 yards)