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Steelers notebook

Offense gets a new wrinkle

October 21, 2013
By John Mehno (jmehnocolumn@gmail.com) , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers figured a new way to protect Ben Roethlisberger from the dangers of the pass rush:

Line him up at wide receiver.

The Steelers debuted a wildcat formation in Sunday's 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field Sunday evening.

They used the unconventional formation a few times, putting running back Le'Veon Bell behind center in a shotgun position, with Roethlisberger out on the left side.

"We'll do anything to win football games," coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's just the state we're in."

It was a new look against an opponent that's very familiar with the Steelers offense.

"It was a nice little wrinkle," Tomlin said. "Obviously if we want to continue to use it, it needs more layers, more depth. We'll look at it. We'll evaluate it and move on from there."

One of the fringe benefits from unconventional plays is the way it engages players. They get to do something different, and there's often something to be said for that.

If the wildcat remains part of the Steelers' offense, that will be fine with Bell.

He did nothing but hand off on Sunday, but there could be passes in the future. Some of them could even be aimed at Roethlisberger.

"I ran it a little bit in college, and I played quarterback in high school," Bell said. "Maybe we can grow as offense with it. I'm no NFL quarterback. I just do what they ask me to do. We'll see."

Roethlisberger was just a decoy on the plays the Steelers ran, but he issued a warning to the Ravens player lined up against him.

"I told him I was going deep the next time," Roethlisberger said with a smile.

Jones out

Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones did not dress for the game because of the lingering effects of a concussion.

Jones was injured in last week's game against the New York Jets, and his availability was in question all week.

The Steelers said Jones passed a test on Friday. To be certain, the Steelers asked concussion specialist Dr. Mickey Collins to examine Jones on Saturday.

His testing determined that Jones probably shouldn't play.

"We believe that the doctors we have are some of the best in the world," Tomlin said. "We rely on their level of expertise. He handed down that judgment. We didn't second-guess it, we moved on."

The Steelers expect Jones will be available to play this Sunday's game in Oakland.

Costly drop

Rookie receiver Derek Moye was targeted for two passes.

One was a spectacular play, the other was a costly miss.

Moye caught a first-half pass for a 19-yard gain on third down and 5. He was upended by Ravens' safety Matt Elam and held the ball despite being flipped in mid-air.

But Moye, an undrafted free agent from Penn State, let a sure touchdown pass slip through his hands early in the fourth quarter on another third-and-5. Moye gained a step on Lardarius Webb at the right corner of the end zone, and Roethlisberger laid the ball in perfectly.

But Moye couldn't handle the pass, and the Steelers settled for a field goal.

"I definitely want that one back," Moye said. "If I get that pass 10 times again, I feel like I'll make the catch 10 times. Fortunately my teammates made some plays and bailed me out."

Because of his size (6-foot-5), Moye is a favorite target in the end zone because of his ability to out jump defenders for the ball.

But this was just a conventional pass he could have taken in stride after beating the coverage.

"I followed it into my hands," Moye said. "I just misplaced my hands when I tried to catch it."

Bad penalties

Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was penalized twice for 30 yards on one Steelers drive that led to a field goal.

Dumervil's unnecessary roughness penalty allowed the Steelers to convert a second-and-17 situation. He was later called for a 15-yard facemask penalty, which negated a Ravens sack of Roethlisberger.

When someone asked if a veteran like Dumervil shouldn't know better, Ravens coach John Harbaugh took umbrage.

"How about if I give you another option. Is that OK?" Harbaugh snapped. "You can't grab the face mask, but Ben ducks all the time. You just have to find a way not to do that. I mean, what do you say?

"He's trying to wrap him up. That's the biggest, strongest quarterback in the NFL. You have to wrap him up strong and bring him down, but you feel yourself around the face area. He drops down, you have to get your fingers out of there somehow."

"Maybe there's a way to coach that other than talking about it, but you don't want to get the facemask. The other one, I didn't see at all. I can't comment on it."

Line shuffle

Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert came into the game with a quad injury, and it was quickly determined that he shouldn't be playing.

Guy Whimper replaced him.

"He gave us good work," Tomlin said.

Tomlin said he preferred not to move Mike Adams because Adams has been lining up as an extra tight end. Moving Adams, he said, would have been more disruptive.

By the way, Tomlin had a quick answer when asked if the Steelers used their zone blocking scheme more on Sunday.

"No," he said.

SUBHEAD: Back to basics

The Steelers had their most effective game running the ball. Tomlin said a good running game has a positive impact on the rest of the offense.

"If you can run the ball efficiently, you can dial up play-passes and things associated with it and keep people off balance," he said. "We were able to do that for the most part today."

Oldie but goodie

The Steelers' only touchdown was Roethlisberger's three-yard shovel pass to tight end Heath Miller in the first quarter.

If it looked familiar, it should. The Steelers used to run that play with Hines Ward as the receiver.

"I'll take credit for that play," Roethlisberger said. "We put that in this week. I'm glad it worked, I'll put it that way.

"We tweaked it and did some things to it. We used to do that with Hines a lot. We knew that their ends like to come up field. I went to coach early in the week and said let's find a way to put this play in. It's a good play, and obviously Heath gets it. As a quarterback, you love those short, easy passes and let Heath do all the work."

Mr. Automatic

Shaun Suisham got his eighth game-winning field goal and his sixth with the Steelers.

Heinz Field is supposed to be tough on kickers, but Suisham said, "It's my favorite field in the world."

No wonder, given the success he's had.

He credits that success to long snapper Greg Warren.

"He's just awesome," Suisham said.

Breathing room

The game down to the final field goal, but Steelers receiver Antonio Brown said a more efficient offense would minimize that drama.

"We can't let things boil down to the wire, the last snap of the game, the last drive," he said. "We have to put seven [points] on the board in the red zone, not three. That will help us win games and not make it so tight."

Failed gamble

Harbaugh ordered an onside kick early in the fourth quarter after the Ravens had kicked a field goal to pull to a 13-9 deficit.

Kicker Justin Tucker nudged the ball, then tried to recover it. That's the way the Ravens designed the play.

But the ball didn't travel the required 10 yards before Tucker touched it, and the Steelers wound up with possession anyway. Vince Williams recovered the ball.

If that wasn't enough, Jeromy Miles left early and Baltimore was flagged for being offside.

"That's the unforgivable part of the whole thing," Harbaugh said. "That's the part that ticks me off more than anything."

SUBHEAD: Hold the ice

Harbaugh chose not to call a time out when Suisham lined up for the winning kick.

Most coaches routinely call time out to try to "ice" the kicker.

"I really don't know the science on that because there is none that proves one thing over the other," Harbaugh said. "I didn't think it would be a smart thing to do because the field was a little ruddy there and (a time out) gave them a little more time to prepare the plant foot and all that. If you ice him, that gives him more time to prepare."

Not done yet

The Ravens are 3-4, trailing the first place Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) by a significant margin.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't ready to concede anything, though.

"I still have a lot of confidence," he said. "It's going to be a dogfight, as it always is in this division. Cincinnati won today, and they probably have a little bit of a stronghold on it, but we haven't played them yet.

"We still have a lot of games to go. We have to continue to look forward and continue to be confident."

Stats and streaks

-It was the fourth consecutive Ravens-Steelers game decided by three points.

-Roethlisberger is 10-4 as a starter against the Ravens.

-Miller became the fifth player in Steelers history to score 40 touchdowns. He is the first tight end to do that.

-Linebacker Lawrence Timmons had 17 tackles, 12 solo.

 
 

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