Steelers Troy Polamalu says scrambling ability of E.J. Manuel make Bills offense 'flavor of the week'

Tom Szczerbowski

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he wanted to see how much coaches wanted to see their quarterbacks getting hit in the trendy zone read option that's come into the NFL. The Steelers aren't hitting the quarterback much, but Troy Polamalu still sees the same issue with Buffalo's offense with E.J. Manuel. And he's still leery.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu dipped back into old vernacular Friday.

When speaking on Buffalo's offense under rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, he mentioned the phrase coach Mike Tomlin used to describe the zone read option.

"Flavor of the week," as quoted by Tribune-Review reporter Alan Robinson.

Tomlin said at the league's spring meetings he was interested in seeing how often teams wanted to get their quarterbacks hit by running the scheme, which involves quarterbacks rushing the ball. If it isn't always as simple as a quarterback draw, the option instilled in the scheme can be a handoff or a pass, depending on what the defense is giving them.

Needless to say, the flavor was particularly bitter in Week 8 when Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor took an option run 93 yards untouched for a touchdown.

"Anytime you have someone who can run and pass, it gives them flexibility with their play calling," Polamalu said, as quoted by Robinson. "We have to be aware of him scrambling."

Manuel, who has missed the team's last four games with a knee injury - his second such injury of his rookie season - doesn't have Pryor's speed but is a better passer, and with that, can be just as dangerous of a player. If the Flavor of the Week is the quarterback running the ball, the staple is quickly turning into mobile quarterbacks who can work the play for a few extra seconds, giving receivers more of an opportunity to fight through coverage and get open down the field.

Sounds an awful lot like Polamalu's teammate, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Certainly, no one is calling Manuel Roethlisberger, but he does have the athleticism and arm strength to play in that style. It's difficult to defend, as Pittsburgh's opponents since 2004 know, because it's spontaneous. For the most part, it's not drawn up.

With Buffalo's ability to run the football and control the tempo of the game, a few sandlot, Roethlisbergean plays on third down from Manuel might be the difference in Sunday's game.

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