Dunlap: Power Football Might Have Been The Play

Why didn't the Steelers try to muscle up with game on line?

Colin Dunlap
November 26, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe I'm old. 

Maybe I'm a dinosaur. 

Perhaps my line of thinking is antiquated, from a time way in the past and it just doesn't work anymore. If that's the case, so be it --- then I'm wrong and I'm happy to be wrong. And I'll be wrong until I'll blue in the face. 

All that said, I'll never waver from the fact that there is a time and place for some power football. There's a point that comes every once in awhile when it's time to take the cutesy out of things and simply be meaner, stronger and nastier than that guy across the ball and fire in lower than he has the heart to. A situation arises where you plainly just need to smash someone's mug and let it be known that the scrimmage line --- and leverage therein --- belongs to you and not him. 

The Steelers should have done that on Sunday. I don't know if it would have ended with the Steelers winning on Sunday, but the Steelers should have played power football at the tail end of what was a 24-17 loss in Denver. 

Related: Broncos snap Steelers' six-game winning streak 24-17

This isn't hindsight. It isn't some Monday Morning Quarterbacking. I said this as it transpired and I'm still puzzled how, with the game in the balance and maybe the best offensive line in football, the offensive minds were insistent on working out of a shotgun and not having the full heavy package on the field. 

OK, so we all know by now what predated the end-game for the Steelers. There was Xavier Grimble not getting in the end zone. There was a blocked field goal. There was a Big Ben bad interception. There was James Conner putting the ball on the ground in a key moment. There was Mike Tomlin chomping through a couple of timeouts in the second half the way Clint Hurdle chomps through bubblegum in the dugout. 

All that happened. And still, here the Pittsburgh Steelers were at the 3 (after a nifty Roethlisberger run) with two minutes remaining and down seven points. 

These are the situations that Big Ben lives for. This should be a layup for the Steelers. Hell, I wasn't worried about them scoring, I was thinking about them not scoring too quickly and leaving too much time for the Broncos to kick a field goal in that Mile High air where you can seemingly boot 75-yarders if you catch it just right. 

Nonetheless, back to the situation --- First-and-goal from the 3 with the clock not an issue and down a touchdown. 

The Steelers threw a fade-ish, kinda, sorta thing to JuJu Smith-Schuster on first down that fell incomplete. Maybe they liked the matchup or whatever. I don't know. But one thing is certain, they worked out of the shotgun. 

Let me ask you, why is Rosie Nix employed if he isn't going to be used in moments such as those? 

Also, let me ask you, who is having a better season among NFL guards than David DeCastro? I'm here to tell you the list is short if it exists at all. 

So why the throw to JuJu? Why work out of the gun? Why can't Roethlisberger get his hands under center and run out of that set with Nix blasting just behind DeCastro or following a pulling DeCastro and James Conner with the ball behind that? 

Old-school, beat your backside, smash your face in football. At least give it a try. We hear all the time how this offensive line is filled with badasses and coached by King Badass in Mike Munchak --- so why not let them outmuscle someone? 

Anyhow, the Steelers threw it on first down and it fell to the grass. 

On second down the Steelers ran, but wide to the left side. It was a play that was stuffed and Conner was, by and large, on an island. If you are going to run it, running to the right or through the middle is your best bet and also employing Nix or even an offset tight end would have worked better.

So third-and-goal. You know what happened. A timing issue on the shotgun snap and a frazzled Roethlisberger (who should have just chucked it out of the end zone after the play was busted) threw the football into a pile of bodies and inexplicably Shelby Harris came down with it. Game, set, match. There was never a fourth down. There was never another chance. 

But the whole sequence I'll never understand. And, again, I understand the Steelers' ills to that point in the game. Several key moments happened where the Steelers came up short. But here they were at the very end knocking on the door and they not only ran an RPO, they seemed intent on running everything out of the shotgun. 

I don't know, man. 

I don't know. 

Like I said, maybe I'm just old. Maybe my Western Pennsylvania shot-and-a-beer ways are showing right now. But why in the world is Rosie Nix given a helmet on gameday if he isn't going to be used in that situation? It seems perfect for him. And if this offensive line is so good (which I think they are), put the game in their hands.  

I don't know, man. I just don't get what's wrong with trying to beat someone up near the goal line sometimes.