Art Rooney II turned a lot of heads last January when he very publicly called on his offense to “run the ball more effectively.” Lest the faithful fear that Art II was succumbing an attack of Daniel Snyderism, Rooney quickly clarified that the Steelers did not need to run more, just run better.
As numerous commentators have mentioned, from Ed Bouchette to the sporadic blogger, running the ball in the NFL is as much about mentality is anything else.
Chuck Noll used to like to say that training camp was as much about mental preparation as it was physical. Although Noll was known for his mastery of the cerebral side of the game, this wasn’t want he was talking about.
Rather, Noll was talking about using training camp to get players in the mindset needed to use their bodies as projectiles (pretty stark way to put it in this age of consciousness about concussions, but Noll was right.)
Mike Tomlin calls its "attrition football." Bill Cowher called it "imposing your will." Either way, it is all about having the mentality, the 'Want To.'
In times in recent years, it has seemed that the Steelers have lacked the 'Want To' when it came to running the ball. Re-establishing the run was a training camp priority.
Did the Steelers succeed in establishing the right mindset needed to run the ball while at St. Vincents?
One victory over the Atlanta Falcons provides far too little to draw conclusions from, but the early indicators are positive.
At no moment was this more apparent than the last play of the game.
According to Ed Bouchette, the Steelers had run 22 double several times before, with far lesser effect. But they ran it again because they felt the were getting the blocking down.
Block they did in overtime. First David Johnson on the lead block, then Hines Ward on the lateral block, and Rashard Mendenhall had room to run.
Reproducing a similar effect against Tennessee looks to be a more difficult challenge, but for one game at least the Steelers were back to Steelers Football.
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A welcome sign for all.