On the Steelers: Who's wild about the cat?


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Look for the wildcat offense again in Oakland today. The Steelers might use it, with some new wrinkles, but the Raiders definitely will. That's because Terrelle Pryor is the wildcat offense. When you have a quarterback who can run like Pryor, there's no need to bring in a runner to take a snap because you already have one.

As for the Steelers, don't look for them to junk something that worked somewhat for them last Sunday, even if Ben Roethlisberger wishes it would go away. Roethlisberger does not like the wildcat, which is why they did not run it when Bruce Arians was their coordinator. Yet, look for Todd Haley to continue to deploy it on occasion despite Roethlisberger's disdain.

What quarterback would like the thing? They split him out wide, which virtually makes the offense now 10 on 11 because Roethlisberger's joking aside, they're not going to throw it to him. He threw a block on one play last Sunday. Is that what they want? Their $100 million quarterback throwing blocks on running plays?

The only thing they could do to involve Roethlisberger in the scheme would be for him to go in motion and have Le'Veon Bell hand it off to him or toss it to him so Roethlisberger could then pull the flea-flicker and throw one down field. There would be too many moving parts, too many things that could go wrong.

Other than that, when Bell lines up to take the direct snap, the defense knows he's going to either run or hand off to Antonio Brown. Those safeties don't need to hang back.

As I wrote earlier, the Steelers should get credit for introducing the play back in 1995 and not the Minnesota Vikings, who did it three years later. At least when the Steelers did it nearly 20 years ago, they had a true quarterback running it in Kordell Stewart -- the Terrelle Pryor of his time. Even though Bell said he played quarterback in high school, no one really wants to see him start throwing passes.

Teams with great quarterbacks don't usually run the wildcat. Think Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers.

The Steelers' surprise use of it Sunday against Baltimore, for the most part, worked. Bell handed off to Brown the first time he took the snap from center, in the first quarter, and the play gained 3 yards. Bell kept it on the next play and it gained 6 yards for a first down.

In the third quarter, Bell ran for 7 yards on first down, then ran for 2 yards on second down. On third-and-1, Roethlisberger scrambled 19 yards for a first down.

So, from the wildcat, the Steelers gained 18 yards on four carries. That's OK, but Roethlisberger then ran 19 yards on one.

While the quarterback may not like it, others do.

"I feel like one of the biggest things for direct snaps is you don't have to worry about a handoff," Bell said. "Your eyes are on the defense, you don't have to worry about a handoff, you don't have to worry about steps or nothing. You just have to get the ball and run it. That's the biggest advantage for it."

Said guard David DeCastro: "I like it. It keeps the defense off guard, gives them a change of pace and something to think about. And that's what you want to do, you don't want to give the defense the same plays, the same factors all the time. You want to keep them on their toes."

They won't catch defenses by surprise anymore, but they did force teams to prepare for it, so that was a success as well.

Still, there's a reason the wildcat came and went in the NFL like some pet-rock oddity over the course of a few years. And teams with great quarterbacks never used it. Not until now anyway.

DeCastro growing into his potential

A popular pastime played by Steelers fans as their team lost their first four games was to rip their draft choices, particularly ones made lately.

But don't knock guard David DeCastro, their first-round pick in 2012. He's become everything they thought he could be, and he's coming off his best game.

You can go by an independent ratings service, Pro Football Focus, which called his showing "strong" and, in its analysis, said the Steelers ran for 51 yards on seven runs behind him. Or you can listen to his teammates.

"He's finding his game right now," said Marcus Gilbert, who plays next to him at right tackle. "I love working with him. I think it's something to build on.

"He's one of the smartest guys I ever played with on the line. He sees lot of things. He's starting to become more a leader on the line."

Here's the guy to his left, center Fernando Velasco: "He's a good player, he'll be a good player for a long time. Thing about it is, he's so smart about the game, he knows everything that's going on out there, he watches a lot of film so he knows what to expect.

"His vibe and feeling for the game has definitely improved on week to week basis."

Random thoughts while flying west

* Forget Buctober. The Steelers have won nine of their past 10 games in October.

* Although the Steelers have lost three of their past four against the Raiders, including the past two in Oakland, you wouldn't know it by Ben Roethlisberger's stats against them -- a 106.3 passer rating. Roethlisberger needs two touchdown passes to hit 200 for his career. Terry Bradshaw has the team record with 212.

* The Steelers have now made 20 moves with their 53-man roster since after the first game of the season. Since their cutdown to 53 the week before the first game, they have made 28.

* Cornerback Isaiah Green, since Sept. 2, has first made the 53-man roster, been cut, signed to the practice squad, signed back on the roster, cut, signed back to the practice squad and signed back to the roster.

* Two players they have added to their 53-man roster during the season were hurt before they ever played a game. Levi Brown somehow tore his triceps in warmups before his first game and went on injured reserve. (Did someone get a photo of him in his Steelers uniform for posterity?) Richard Gordon no sooner was signed last week to be their fourth tight end that he wound up on the injury report with some sort of toe problem. (They managed to beat the Ravens without him.)

* Like halfbacks Jonathan Dwyer (cut before the season, re-signed after) and Isaac Redman (cut this past week), the Steelers do not seem able to make up their minds between Stevenson Sylvester and Kion Wilson. Wilson made the team over Sylvester, who was cut before the season began. Then, Oct. 9, Wilson was cut so they could sign Sylvester. This week, they signed Wilson again to replace Redman.


Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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