Steelers' Fortune A Result Of Minor Changes - By Tim Bodamer
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Many can attribute the Steelers success and their 8-1 record to rookie phenom Ben Roethlisberger. Or maybe to the revival of Jerome Bettis. The offensive line has risen from the ashes, and Blitzburgh is back, thanks to the return of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
But in a nutshell, Coach Bill Cowher can point to a few minor changes and improvements that make the Steelers winners rather than losers on the tightrope of the NFL. The offensive line has been stellar. But the reason is line coach Russ Grimm's move to a zone blocking effort in the run game. That, and the vast improvement of Oliver Ross, it doesn't matter whose carrying the ball (Bettis, Duce Staley, Verron Haynes, or Willie Parker), the Steelers are confident they can run on anybody.
Deshea Townsend should have been starting two years ago. When all of the talk was focused on Troy Polamalu as an up and coming safety, and the return of Willie Williams as a gritty veteran cornerback, all Townsend did was make plays. His coverage skills are solid. He can play the run, and has been a key factor in LeBeau's blitz packages.
Clark Haggans is not Jason Gildon. He is undersized compared to Gildon and is not as physically dominant as the Steelers' all-time leading sack leader. But what Haggans has done is get pressure on the quarterback. He's rarely been out of position when playing the run, and has a nonstop motor.
Kimo von Oelhoffen came to the Steelers partly on the recommendation of former All-Pro center Dermonti Dawson, who always noted that he had a tough time blocking during von Oelhoffen's days in Cincinnati. He hasn't changed since moving from the nose to the defensive tackle position. He still fights off some double teams, and along with Aaron Smith provide an amazing but unheralded tandem in the mostly obscure 3-4.
Marc Whipple. Everybody knows about LeBeau and Ken Whisenhunt, the brains behind the Steelers number two run game in the NFL. But Whipple, who serves as the team's quarterback coach, a position left unfilled with the Steelers during most of the past two decades, has made the Steelers quarterback situations one of the strongest positions in the league. Everybody knows about Roethlisberger's successes. But transitioning him from college to the pros is not an overnight task, and most of the success can lie with the rookie quarterback. But Whipple has worked with the nuances of footwork and delivery with the rookie. Big Ben has arrived, but Marc Whipple is a positive chaperone.
Cowher is back on top of the AFC North (and the AFC for that matter) because he bucked the tradition of staying with veterans who are struggling, albeit through injuries (see Chad Scott and Tommy Maddox). What he has done, is work with front office head Kevin Colbert in bringing along good young talent to fill in the pieces. The big names from the early round of the drafts and the acclaimed free agents are nice, but it comes down to depth and overcoming adversity that brings upon winning.
The Steelers are the darlings of the NFL media. It's a matter of reading between the lines, and not the news headlines, that has put them on the verge of a memorable season.