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Steelers continue their search for the ever elusive balance on offense

When it comes to run vs. pass, the early goal should always be balance.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“Never too high, never too low.”

This was a saying I had for the teams I coached over 12 years at the Varsity High School level. Never get too high after a big play, and never get too low after a bad one. The key is balance, and the goal is equilibrium.

I view offensive play-calling, especially early in a game almost the same.

Never too much pass, never too much run.

I understand if a team is being gashed one way or the other, abusing a weakness is never a bad thing, but finding your way back to balance should always be the goal, in my opinion.

Take the Week 1 contest vs. the Cleveland Browns as an example, even though there are other games much more egregious.

When all was said and done, the Steelers, who once had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, threw the football 41 times, in less-than-ideal conditions, and ran it 35. Not too bad, right? But when you look into the game deeper, you see just where the team strayed away from the desired balance.

Let’s break this down by quarter:

1st Quarter Total Plays: 15
Pass Attempts: 10
Rush Attempts: 5

2nd Quarter Total Plays: 15
Pass Attempts: 9
Rush Attempts: 6

1st Half Numbers:

Pass Attempts: 19
Rush Attempts: 11

3rd Quarter Total Plays: 11
Pass Attempts: 4
Rush Attempts: 7

4th Quarter Total Plays: 23
Pass Attempts: 8
Rush Attempts: 15

2nd Half Numbers:

Pass Attempts: 12
Rush Attempts: 22

Overtime Total Plays: 16
Pass Attempts: 12
Rush Attempts: 4

Just look at those numbers in the second half. Once the Steelers obtained their lead, the plan by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was to essentially take the air out of the football and ice out the game.

But let’s go back to the old mantra at the beginning of the article:

Never too much pass, never too much run.

I’m not saying Fichtner should have been dialing up deep bombs with a 14-point lead, and a game which seemed to be in-hand, but the predictability is what doomed the Pittsburgh offense down the stretch. In today’s NFL, being predictable on offense is a death knell, and one which should be avoided at all costs.

There will be games which buck this “balance” theory, but more often than not a team which is balanced offensively will keep the defense on their heals. In the Week 1 tie with the Browns, in the second half, mainly the fourth quarter, the Browns knew what the Steelers wanted to do, and were loading the box to do it. For some reason, maybe the weather or Ben Roethlisberger’s ineffectiveness, Fichtner kept banging his head against the wall.

In Week 2, with a Kansas City Chiefs defense, which probably isn’t as good as the Browns’ unit faced in Week 1, the Steelers will have the opportunity to find their balance. Run Conner, but mix in the pass at appropriate times. Use the pass to open up the run on some drives. It is all about keeping them guessing, and balance is the perfect recipe for success in this area.