Friday, May 25, 2012

OTAs Give An Insight Into New Steelers Offense; Harrison Slams Goodell...Again

The Pittsburgh media did a great job during the first week of OTAs. One of the first among these was Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was all over the place with quotes, observations and videos of the practices. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkKaboly_Trib.

Some of the things we found out was that Big Ben didn't practice yesterday, he was in just a t-shirt in fact. No Harrison, Ike or Cotchery either.

The aforementioned Mark Kaboly said that Keenan Lewis told him that he will make Pro Bowl this year. Lofty goal for someone who isn't even guaranteed a starting position. I like the confidence, though.

Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert says don't count him out at left tackle just yet. He called it his "dream" position. Per Kaboly, the exact quote from Gilbert was: "I'm not counting it out 100% that they aren't going to move me over to left. That's my dream. My passion."

Gilbert went on to talk about other positions on the offensive line when he said of Colon at left guard: "He can be one of the best guards in NFL. He's a strong, powerful guy that can anchor down." Strong words, but I believe that he just may be right. The false starts aside, Colon was one the better right tackles in the NFL before his injuries. I've believed he could move inside for a couple of years now as well. Let's hope he proves Gilbert and I correct.

Worilds has a bandage wrapping his left hand and hasn't practiced in three days. Hopefully it's a temporary thing. Rashard Mendenhall, though, has been seen working out on the sidelines and on the bike preparing himself and rehabilitating. He was quoted as saying he plans to be ready by week one.

Um...no. No, he won't. I love the drive, but recovery time for this injury is nine months. Especially for a player who depends on his speed and cutback abilities. He's a dynamic runner and being able to slash is an important part of his game. He's not a plodder who just busts forward down after down and occasionally flashes his one move. Simply put, week one won't happen. Baron Batch, yes. Mendy, no. Expect him to be on the PUP list to start the season.

As can be found on steelers.com, Big Ben said of Haley's new offense, "I tried to tell (them) don't get frustrated because I know you're used to getting a lot more balls, but this is how it was my rookie year. I know what one guy does and I go to him. If he's not open, I start scrambling."

Big Ben excels at that. But Todd Haley is trying to get Big Ben to play more from the pocket.

"I know that I'm supposed to get rid of the ball, stay in the pocket and not get hit. I guess I better learn where the protections are coming from so I don't get hit", he said with a chuckle.

Those words may give pause to many in Steeler Nation that the Steelers are taking away what Big Ben does best. But it's May, and it makes sense for the team to be focusing on the fundamentals of the offense and on Ben staying in the pocket. Trust me, when the games start, he'll be Big Ben again. We just need a little less John Wayne.

Speaking further on the new offense,  we are starting to see certain elements of it come into focus. There are a few things to which we can probably look forward, such as:

The beloved Counter Pike/Trap/Pull and other POWER RUNNING PLAYS will stay intact with Haley at the helm. In fact, with more athleticism at the guard spots you can bet on it. As I said in a previous blog also, expect both sides to pull. Ergo, more BALANCE. Gradually the new offense will morph to the point where it won't be the predictable beast we saw last year.

Also expect to see more use of a FULLBACK or H-BACK in the offense as David "DJ" Johnson and WVU grad Will Johnson are both listed as fullbacks now and are attending the running back meetings. So running-back-by-committee and Pony backfield formations will probably be seen with backs like Baron Batch and/or Chris Rainey present to go along with Isaac Redman. Bruce Arians from time-to-time said that it was possible that a Pony formation would be used, but I barely remember it. But, no matter, he's "retired" anyway.

More PLAY ACTION and NO-HUDDLE will seemingly be used in this offense also. Big Ben is an accurate passer when using either play action or the no-huddle, and Ben said it will be used more this season. Plus, if you establish running game early, you can use the play action later much more effectively.

Isaac Redman said that they would be THROWING MORE TO THE RUNNING BACKS also. He, himself, is a capable pass receiver and both Batch and Rainey showed that ability in college. Big Ben needs to check down to his backs more anyway, which will lessen the sacks he takes.

All-in-all it seems the Steelers are enjoying getting back to work and learning the new offense which, let's face it, needed an injection of new ideas and a fresh approach. The offense could always do more: if Big Ben had 250 yards passing, you know he could've passed for 300 yards; if the running backs ran for 75 yards, you know they could've run for over 100 yards. So now we can look forward to the next set of OTAs to see what other new things we find out.

~

James Harrison is back in the news, but not because of the OTAs. Last year Harrison trashed Roger Goodell, among others, in an interview last year. He initially said he was taken out of context, then apologized and said his comments were way out of line. Despite the apology he obviously seems to still have a certain degree of vitriol for Goodell. It seems he agrees with Jonathan Vilma’s contention that Goodell was out of line in his public comments about the Saints’ bountygate. Harrison thinks Vilma’s attempt to sue Goodell for defamation is a win-win situation, whether successful or not.

“If he loses, it shows Goodell does have too much power,” Harrison told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “and if he wins, it opens up the floodgates.”

Harrison said he believes the players shouldn’t have signed off on the CBA last year unless Goodell's power had been attenuated. When the CBA was signed
last summer, the Steelers players/organization voted 78-6 against it-the only team to do so.

Well, whether right or wrong, the only thing we can be sure of is that Goodell can't fine Deebo for saying what he did. (Can he?)

~

For you gambling degenerates: Post Gazette Blog: Vegas: Steelers' 2012 over/under -- 10 wins http://t.co/fCkWw4mi