Thursday, August 2, 2007

Spreading 'Em Out

We've finally decided to use the large number of contributors at this site to our advantage, with our new series "Point/Counterpoint". We know, its a very original name. Anyway, a question will be posed and two editors will duke it out, each giving different sides to the argument. The second editor is forced to rebuttal the argument, regardless of if he agrees with the first point. Without further ado...

Will the Steelers' new spread offense work?

Pirate in Search of Nutting's Chest:

After seeing the Indianapolis Colts and, hell, even the Florida Gators working with a spread offense you have to wonder if maybe it is the dominant offensive game plan. A spread offense creates mismatches and spreads out defensive personnel, creating holes and open field for your running back. Knowing Willie Parker and the offensive lines ability to run block, I see success on the horizon.

The spread will also help keep Big Ben off the ground. The Steelers, who last season struggled with the pass block, will rely more on quick and precise passing that won't stress the offensive line to maintain a pocket for as long. In a spread offense Big Ben will also been given more command at the line ala Peyton Manning. This will surely help the Steelers when it comes to going against defenses like that of the Baltimore Ravens.

More underneath and timing routes should help prevent this.

While the Steelers might lack a dominant receiver for an offense that is going to rely much more on the pass, they are in possession of some very superb route runners. Cedric Wilson and Santonio Holmes will prove to be invaluable with their quick feet and sneaky route running skills. Hines Ward, while he might lack the overall quickness of the others, undoubtedly will work perfectly alongside, providing another receiver to make a tough catch over the middle. The addition of Dallas Baker, who played under the spread offense in Florida, should fit in nicely to a unit adjusting to a system he is already fairly familiar with.

Counterpoint by Sam:

How quickly everyone forgets 2003. In that year, we ranked 10th in the league in passes attempted and 13th in the league in passing yards, while only ranking 17th in rushes attempted and 31st in rushing yards. A valid excuse was the personnel. Tommy Maddox, Amos Zereoue, and an aging Jerome Bettis should not be confused with Big Ben, Willie Parker, and Najeh Davenport. However, the wide receivers of Burress, Ward, and Randle El were as good, if not better than this current crop. Regardless of their route running ability, as PiSoNC points to, it is difficult to replace the deep threat Burress provided. But if anything can be gleaned from the 2003 season it's that the spread offense can be extremely frustrating at times. Yes, it can produce remarkable results, but it can be equally as bad. For a fanbase that has grown up to appreciate field position and controlling the clock, expect to hear disdain almost immediately if the new system does not produce.

The time in the pocket should theoretically increase. But, again, looking at '03 it is not guaranteed. Maddox dropped back to pass 377 times in '02, a year when the traditional run-oriented offense was exercised, and was sacked a total of 26 times. In '03 Maddox was sacked 41 times out of 519 attempts. The ratios? 1 sack /14.5 attempts in '02 and 1 sack / 12.66 attempts in '03. If anything, it could be argued that the spread offense back then led to even more trouble in the backfield.

No offense could keep Maddox off the ground

But that was all Mularkey's fault, you say. Well I'm not entirely sure Bruce Arians can do that much of a better job. As much as Wannstache would like you to believe that the Wildcard game in 2002 was indicative of Arians' skill as a playcaller, I don't find one game to be all that telling. In the three years as Cleveland's offensive coordinator from 2001-2003, the Browns ranked 25th, 19th, and 29th in total offense, respectively. While crummy Browns' coaches have shown they can turn their careers around (read: Bill Belichick), we still may be giving our blessing to Arians a bit prematurely. I hope I'm wrong.

End of Post

1 comment:

Dave Wannstache said...

Good points by both of you.

Remember, Arians had awful talent during his years as OC of the Browns. QB's like Tim Couch and awful offensive lines. His talent is much better this time around.

I, for one, think the new offense is a breath of fresh air. It's not like we're going to use the spread offense every down, we're just using it to make our O less predictable and open things up. As PiSoNC noted, it will open up running lanes for Parker. It will also provide the opportunity to match Parker against a linebacker in the passing game. One thing I worry about is that our offensive line was kind of crafted to be smashmouth. Guys like Simmons, Faneca, and Starks are better run blockers than pass blockers, so we'll see if the protection holds up.