Ah, yes, the no-huddle attack; it's been talked about and debated over since forever......mainly by Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback in-charge of getting the Steelers back to the playoffs.
Will the Steelers ever truly use it? Will offensive coordinator Todd Haley place his rather sizable ego to the side (nothing against him because I hope he has a big ego considering the importance of his job description) and allow his very successful quarterback to utilize a formation and a philosophy he seems to really enjoy?
The answer is yes--at least it was a year ago when the Steelers ratcheted up the no-huddle over the course of the second half and averaged 28 points a week, won six of eight games down the stretch and barely missed the playoffs, after averaging less than 20 points a game in the first half on the way to a 2-6 start.
Unfortunately, two receiving components--Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery--left in the offseason via free agency, and the vacuum was filled by veteran Lance Moore and the untapped potential of Markus Wheaton. These developments created doubt as to whether or not it would be a good idea to continue the no-huddle theme in 2014.
Thanks to OTAs, training camp and--if the start to Saturday night's game against the Bills at Heinz Field was any indication--the preseason, it's safe to say the answer is yes, the Steelers will be utilizing the no-huddle quite extensively again this season.
And why not?
The quarterback loves it. And if you don't believe me, just look at his stats from the 19-16 victory over Buffalo:
Roethlisberger connected on eight of 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in barely over a quarter of action. Not only that, he was precise, he was efficient, and he didn't seem to be running for his life out there. In other words, No. 7 looked like an accomplished quarterback, who appeared to be confident in a formation he's been wanting to utilize for quite some time, and he knew how to execute it.
"The communication was what I wanted to work on and we didn't have any mental errors of what I saw so far," said Roethlisberger in a quote regarding the no-huddle courtesy of ESPN.com.
This is just a very educated guess, but Antonio Brown, the star receiver who had a career year in 2013, is probably salivating over the prospects of topping his 110 catch, 1499 yard performance of a year ago. Saturday night, Brown took Roethlisberger's second pass of the evening in-stride and outran the entire Bills' defense for a 76 yard touchdown. It was vintage Brown. And while it wasn't the vintage "schoolyard" Roethlisberger we have all come to know and love over the years, it may soon be his trademark as he enters the twilight of his career and maybe puts most of the Steelers quarterback records far out of sight.
As for Wheaton, he tapped into a bit of his potential by pulling in Roethlisberger's second touchdown pass with some impressive foot-work in the back-corner of the end zone.
If Brown keeps being Brown, and if Wheaton makes a second year leap even approaching Mike Wallace's in 2010, when he pulled in 60 passes for 1257 yards and 10 touchdowns, that could be quite the lethal one-two punch at the top of Pittsburgh's receiver group.
Throw in the savvy veteran Moore playing the role of Cotchery, a 100 percent healthy tight end in the very underrated Heath Miller, Le'Veon Bell and is proficiency in catching passes out of the backfield, some more untapped potential in Martavis Bryant and Dri Archer (wow is he fast), and an offensive line that excelled in the no-huddle in the latter stages of the previous season (even without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey), and we could have something here.
Admittedly, most of the Steelers recent preseason games have been snooze-fests. But Saturday night, instead of Haley utilizing his original plan to help execute Art Rooney II's tweak mandate of 2012, as he did in the previous two exhibition seasons where it really did seem like just protecting Roethlisberger's health was paramount, Haley gave us a nice little preview of a new tweak--one that was exciting and allowed his franchise quarterback to be on the offensive, and had the defense on its heels.
There are a lot of things that are crucial to the Steelers possible return to relevance this season--LeBackfield, Ryan Shazier (holy wow), etc--but the no-huddle attack probably heads the list.
How can I have such an opinion? The franchise quarterback likes it and seems to be good at it.