After five games of struggling to move the ball on the ground, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally got things rolling in a 19-16 victory in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers gained over 100 yards as a team in the running game for the first time this season, with 93 of those yards coming from rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.
However, Pittsburgh didn’t go the traditional route every time they carried the ball. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley implemented the Wildcat offense, something that has never been seen before in Steeler Nation. Haley called in the play four times throughout last week’s game, with three of the snaps going directly to Bell for a total of 15 yards. Wide receiver Antonio Brown handled the other carry for a gain of three yards.
It appears that there was some success with the Wildcat this past week. Running the ball from that formation resulted in an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Even with the success of the Wildcat, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has some skepticism about the innovative formation.
Earlier this week, Roethlisberger stated that he didn’t like being spit out wide as a receiver going up against defensive backs. Big Ben’s concern was that cornerbacks can possibly take shots at him. Furthermore, he mentioned that running out the receiver position makes him tired.
Roethlisberger is also uneasy about a running back taking snaps from the shotgun, something that is unfamiliar for players in that position.
I see where he’s coming from with the chance of players in the secondary trying to cheap-shot him and get him out of the game. Roethlisberger is the most valuable player for the Steelers, and losing him to such behavior would be a tragedy.
I can even understand Big Ben being edgy about a running back handling snaps from the shotgun. Any quarterback, especially one of Roethlisberger’s caliber, feels that they are the best person to rely on with the ball in their hands. Yet, as a team player, Big Ben needs to realize that he has to have faith in his fellow teammates in order to have success.
And as for being spit out wide, I’m not buying the getting winded thing when running to the receiver position. It’s not like he’s running the 40-yard dash every time he goes to the receiver spot.
This week, the Steelers will face the Oakland Raiders, whose defense is tied for ninth in the NFL in stopping the run. Using the Wildcat formation could be something that can throw off the Raiders’ defense and give Pittsburgh success on the ground for the second week in a row.
The bottom line is that Roethlisberger should keep his thoughts to himself about the Wildcat, especially if the formation is working. If by chance the Steelers’ running game doesn’t flourish by using the Wildcat and Haley insists on continuing to use it, then Big Ben will have a legitimate argument.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+