In the final moments before Sunday's kickoff between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, Steve Tasker -- CBS's sideline reporter for the game -- mentioned how Mike Tomlin had declared that the Steelers were going to not do anything fancy against the Jets offensively. At the time, I thought Tomlin might just be protecting against having critical information leaked to the opposition again after what happened with ESPN's Bob Holtzman the previous week. Turns out Tomlin was telling no lies. The Steelers simply lined up, hit the Jets in the mouth, then stuck with the same simple philosophy after finding it successful at the outset of the game.
You can't give offensive coordinator Bruce Arians enough credit for the gameplan. He clearly saw something in the Jets' defense that his offense could take advantage of. More importantly though, I was impressed that Arians made a wholehearted commitment to running straight at the Jets' defense early and often rather than getting cute and abandoning what was working.
The Steelers ran a total of 64 offensive plays. 43 were rushing attempts, while 21 were passing plays. Of those 21 passing attempts, Roethlisberger attempted passes on 19, while being sacked on two. The 43 rushes equaled the second highest mark of the season, bested only by the 45 carries during the Steelers' overtime win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 12. However, the Steelers ran 83 plays that day meaning the run:pass ratio was roughly 54 percent. Against the Jets, the ratio was roughly 2:3 or 67 percent. Though I'd need more time to confirm this, I'm comfortable stating that the run:pass ratio was higher than it's ever been in any game since Bruce Arians arrived in PIttsburgh to take over the offense back in 2007. And to think that the Steelers did so against a top-five rushing defense in the biggest game of the year. Remarkable.
The high volume of carries was not the only thing that was impressive. I also though there was a stellar diversity to the play designs, and I though that Arians sequenced the calls well. That's been one of my criticisms of Arians over the years -- a great play or two followed by a head-scratching call that broke all semblance of momentum and flow. Against the Jets, Arians found something that worked, then allowed his offensive line to dig in and dominate.
More soon on Rashard Mendenhall's efforts made Arians look good last night, as well how the offensive line was able to turn in its best collective performance of the season when the team needed it most.