Problems with 4-3 defenses, and running the ball......

I posted this as a reply to another thread, but I would really like to hear what everyone thinks so I posted it as a new post....


Should we pass all the time and give up the run?  Why do we have problems with teams that run a 4-3? 


Forget the run and lets pass?

We tried that a few years back......

Everyone fell in love with Tommy “Gun” Maddox and Bill opened up the offense.

In 2002, once Tommy took over after the bye week (in the third week of the season), he went 10-3 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs (the loss came to the umps, I mean the Titans). In the last 7 games he played that season, he threw 11 ints and as a result the D was on the field a ton and eventually broke down and yielded 31, 33, and 31 points over its last 3 games.

In the 2003 year, things turned ugly quickly! A 6-10 record, an ugly loss to Cleveland in Pittsburgh, and a 3-3 division record. That year Tommy threw the ball around like some schoolboy at the local play ground. 519 pass attempts with 298 completions,17 picks with only 18 TDs! By the end of the year we were back to trying to establish the run, with Tommy only attempting 45 passes the last two games of the year, a win against San Diego (18 attempts) and a OT loss to Baltimore (27 attempts).

In 2004, it was back to the run, with Tommy winning the first game of the year against Oakland (22 attempts) before getting hurt in week 2 at Baltimore. In came Ben!

Since then, Ben has never come close to the year Tommy posted 519 attempts. His attempts have been 295 in 2004, 268 (‘05), 469 (’06), 404 (‘07), 469 (’08). Now, in 2005 we relied heavily on the run and Ben was entrusted to manage the game and not turn the ball over. The next year (’06) he was given the reigns and they thew a ton, the result? 23 picks and a 8-8 record!

In 2007 the attempts came down, Willie was leading the league in rushing until he got hurt against the Rams and missed the last two games of the season (all of the Rams game and a loss to Baltimore) and the playoff game with the Jags. Steelers finish the year with 10 wins and get beat by the Jags in the playoff game. With no running game Ben is forced to throw the ball against the Jags 42 times. In the regular season match up, Willie rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries, but the Steelers did get their butt whipped (Fred Taylor had 147 yards rushing and the Jags had 224 total yards rushing). In the playoff game, Pittsburgh had 43 yards rushing, lost one fumble, Ben threw 3 ints and we would have been smoked had our defense not played a heck of a game. After Fred Taylor ran at will against them in the regular season, the Steelers held him to 48 yards rushing on 16 carries.

In 2008, Big Ben’s attempts did go up again to 469, but the big difference was he did not throw 23 ints (like he did in ’06). Further, if you look at the stats, the Steelers lost the games last year that he did. Giants game, Big Ben had 4 ints, Steelers lost. Indy, 3 picks, Steelers lost. Titans, 2 picks, they lost…… In every game he threw multiple ints last year, the Steelers lost! The exception was the Philly game, only because he had no time to throw, the OL forgot to show up that game. In the playoffs he threw 1 pick in 3 games and they won the Super Bowl.


Problems with a 4-3 defense?

Now, if you say just forget the run (which is absurd), you invite teams (especially with good DL) to pin their straps back and blow by our OL! Those games we lost last year look at the DL those teams have! Why did Ben throw ints? Bad decisions? No Time? Trying to make something out of nothing? Why do you think they have so much trouble with a 4-3 defense!

Look, it is simple. Our OL stinks! A team that plays a 4-3 that has a good DL is going to pressure Ben because they do not have to worry about the run. They do not have to blitz people to get pressure and they can leave 7 in coverage. I do not care who the QB is, no time to throw with 7 defenders in coverage is not going to lend itself to success!  


Again, look at the losses last year:


Eagles game: we had 3 turnovers, 32 yards rushing, 180 total yards, TOP was 27:26 and Steeler QBs were sacked 9 times!  Our defense at least made the final score look like the game was close.


Giants game: we had 4 turnovers, 95 yards rushing (MeMo played great!), 154 total yards, TOP was 25:36 and we were sacked 5 times!  INt in 2nd led to a Giants FG, Int in 3rd led to a Giants FG in the 4th, and the Harrison snap led to a safety and a TD.


Colts game: we had 3 turnovers, 55 yards rushing, 271 total yards, TOP was 34:05 and we were sacked 3 times.   In this game, Big Ben threw an interception and the Colts started at the Steelers 30, 7 plays later Manning hit Dallas Clark for a 2 yard TD with 6 secs left in the first half!  With the momentum Indy takes the opening kickoff and takes it down the field for a Vinatieri FG.  In the 4th, Big Ben throws a pick (with the Steelers leading 20-17) and Indy starts at the Steelers 32!  A few plays later Manning to Rhodes for a 17 yard TD with 3:04 left in the game and a 24-20 Colts lead!  Finally, Big Ben picked off in the end zone with no time left on the clock and the STeelers at the Colts' 27 yard line!


Titans game: 4 turnovers, 71 yards rushing, TOP 30:51 and 5 sacks.  Turning points in this game; Big Ben fumble at Titans 1, Big Ben fumble after a sack on the Steelers 40 (Led to Titans TD),  Reed misses a 33 yard field goal at the half, Big Ben picked off Titans start at Steelers 37 (led to a TD), Big Ben picked off for 83 yard TD.  They left or gave away 31 points in this game, a game they should have won, in part because the Titans DL totally mauled our OL. 


Against good teams that run a 4-3 we are going to have trouble.  Our OL is not what is expected in Pittsburgh, it can be dominated by a good 4-3 DL thus causing pressure on Big Ben.  Until our OL can block someone, this will continue.


Now, we are lucky that we have an incredible D, and Big Ben.  This can overcome the many short falls our OL has, and against lesser teams the problems are masked.  However, against those elite teams that run a 4-3 with offenses that can manage to scratch out points against our D our weaknesses are exposed.


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