It was a balmy Miami night in November of 1996 when the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Jerome Bettis was the star that night as he rushed for 119 yards on 27 carries.
There is a visual that stands out most memorable in my mind from that night - as Mike Tomczak led the offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown, "The Bus" just kept battering the Dolphins defense causing the defensive backs especially to get slower and slower after tackling him.
On the deciding play, Tomczak perfectly executed the play action, the defense bit and wide receiver Ernie Mills caught the 20-yard touchdown pass. Steelers win: 24 - 17.
The defense bit so hard that Tomczak stood back there for what seemed like minutes and Mills was so open that he had time to tie his shoes before catching the ball.
The object lesson here: sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
The Steelers have had their problems over the last few years with holding leads. Obviously, the majority of that is directly on the defense itself. But, not all. Allow me to explain.
Granted, giving up leads is giving up leads. That is solely a defensive deficiency, one which has also been addressed in the draft and free agency.
But not being able to hold on to the ball once you get it back means the defense gets little rest. A tired defense gives up big plays and surrenders more points.
Whether via the play action or in the no-huddle, keeping them off of the field keeps them fresh. Their being fresh means their being alert enough mentally and physically to stop the opponent. Tight end Heath Miller understands this as well.
"[The no-huddle] is good," Miller said in an interview with Dale Lolley. "We're getting a lot of work with it. We're going to continue with it. The last period is good for it. We're tired and we can take the defense and make them tired. It can be a weapon for us." (Brackets and italics ours) - http://tinyurl.com/kgl4n3r
Blount could weigh heavily, no pun intended, in this, both in play action and in the no-huddle offense.
By all means, Bell aids in this also. But where Bell can definitely punch it up the middle, he can bounce it outside just as well. Blount, on the other hand, just pounds and pounds.
“That's my running style,” Blount said. “That's how I run the football, and I feel that Le'Veon is a big, tough running back, too. This is how this team is run with a physical run game, and that's what we are trying to get back to.” - http://tinyurl.com/p7lwgcy
To get back to controlling the clock.
The Tribune-Review article linked above points out that eliminating negative plays is paramount in this. It brought out that it "was most notable in short-yardage situations last year where they ranked 21st in power ranking (percentage of runs on third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown), according to Football Outsiders. They were only successful on 60 percent of such plays."
Can't control the line of scrimmage, can't control the clock.
That's where Blount has excelled in his career, in using "his big frame to his advantage as 65 percent of his career yards have come after contact," partly from averaging 5.47 yards per carry on first and ten alone, and a career 4.7 YPC average.
That kind of production would aid Big Ben in the play action as well, considering that no QB used play action less than he did in 2013, utilizing it just 11.6% of the time, per Pro Football Focus.
Blount may only receive "six to eight carries a game," but his presence and potential threat may just get an opposing defense to bite on the play action in 2014, also, allowing Big Ben to cleanly hit one of his receivers for a game winner.
TIDBITS: Via Mark Kaboly: Steelers OTA 6 -- tight end goal line drills where I almost get run over - http://t.co/hKH4bH99pI
Steelers OTA 6 -- What a catch by Lance Moore - http://t.co/f0j0RCjKaD
Steelers OTA 6 -- OL drills with a Sushi kick - http://t.co/S2qlcwjXxM