Steelers get another taste of read-option offense
The Steelers’ defense will look to stop former Jeannette star Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders’ read-option offensive attack Sunday. Below, strong safety Troy Polamalu will need to play a key role for the Steelers against Pryor.
PITTSBURGH – At last spring’s NFL owners meetings, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin caused a bit of a stir when he called the read-option offense the “flavor of the day” in the league.
With a number of teams starting to use what had previously been thought of as a college offense that wouldn’t work in the NFL, Tomlin said he didn’t feel NFL teams would want to have their quarterbacks take the hits they must endure as runners.
“I think it’s the flavor of the day,” Tomlin said. “We will see if it’s the flavor of the year. We’ll see if guys are committed to getting their guys hit.
“We look forward to stopping it. We look forward to eliminating it.”
The read option hasn’t been eliminated as of yet in the NFL, and the Steelers (2-4) will get an opportunity to face it for the second time in three weeks Sunday when they play at Oakland (2-4).
The last opponent to use the read option against the Steelers was the the New York Jets, who don’t utilize it as much as the Raiders. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a Jeannette native, not only leads the Raiders in passing, he’s also the team’s leading rusher with 285 yards on 44 carries. That’s 18 more rushing yards than running back Darren McFadden, who has 69 attempts.
“They’ve got a quarterback who can create,” Tomlin said of Pryor, who is in his first season as a starter.
“He’s a guy to deal with. They utilize his skillset well – some zone-read stuff, some designed runs, some pocket movement. He’s got nice touch on the ball, throws a nice deep ball. He’s gotten behind some people.”
The last time the Steelers faced a team that used the read option as much as Oakland was last October against Washington and quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Steelers limited Griffin to eight rushing yards on six carries and just 177 passing yards in a 27-12 victory at Heinz Field. Washington receivers had five dropped passes, and Griffin’s 1.3 yards per rush was his season low.
This season, the Steelers have utilized their quarters defense, which has only two down defensive linemen, three linebackers, three cornerbacks and three safeties with a great deal of success.
The defense puts Pittsburgh’s two best defensive playmakers, linebacker Lawrence Timmons and safety Troy Polamalu, just behind the line of scrimmage, allowing them to play the pass and run as well as blitz. Pittsburgh used that defensive approach on more than 60 percent of the snaps Sunday against Baltimore.
The Steelers might be inclined to play more of their base 3-4 defense in an attempt to slow Oakland’s running game, which averages 129.2 yards per game. McFadden had 18 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders’ 34-31 victory over the Steelers last year.
That could make for an interesting cat-and-mouse game between the Steelers and Raiders coaching staffs, as it did against Baltimore, which ran almost exclusively out of a no-huddle offense to keep the Steelers from making defensive substitutions.
The main focus will be stopping the Raiders on first and second down, forcing them into third-and-long situations.
“We’d like to make them throw every now and again. There is a chance they might drop it,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “If you just have to hand it to the tailback, he’s probably not going to drop it.”
Timmons suffered a broken left hand against Baltimore but is not expected to miss any time. “He has full mobility in all of the fingers, but it has been secured with a cast,” Tomlin said. … Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (ribs), defensive end Brett Keisel (ribs), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (abdominal strain) and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee) could be limited in practice. .. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert still has a thigh injury but is expected to play Sunday. … Wide receiver Markus Wheaton will miss his third consecutive game with a broken pinky. … Of the decision to release former starting running back Isaac Redman and add linebacker Kion Wilson to the active roster Monday, Tomlin said, “I thought Kion Wilson provided us with more as a (special) teamer.”