Steelers: No-huddle might be fun, but it does have its flaws


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To those who yearn to see the Steelers implement the K-Gun offense run by Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills in the late 1980s, forget it.

To those who want to see the Steelers run their no-huddle offense for an entire game, don't hold your breath.

Even though it has a high success rate, the no-huddle will remain what it has always been for the Steelers: A tactic to change the tempo of the game and give the offense, when needed, an emotional and strategic lift.

It will remain an element of surprise, a package no different than the way some NFL teams employ the Wildcat formation.

"It's hard," said wide receiver Hines Ward, who leads the team with 42 catches and 602 receiving yards. "You get tired. You have to be in shape. You don't have to use it every time."

"To run the no-huddle all the time wouldn't be too effective," said wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

The Steelers have had great success running their no-huddle offense, and much of the credit goes to Ben Roethlisberger, who calls all the plays at the line of scrimmage.

They started the game against the Minnesota Vikings using the no-huddle, then used it again to score a late touchdown in the first half on a 40-yard pass to Mike Wallace.

But, while it seems to be a successful way to catch a defense off-balance, the offense also has its flaws, according to coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

In this day and age of substitution packages and personnel groupings, the no-huddle limits the rest of the offense because coaches are unable to shuttle in different players to use different formations.

"It limits you way too much," Arians said. "It limits what you can do offensively. You take away a lot of your play-action game and things you can do with a game plan. You basically don't have a game plan. If you go no-huddle [all the time], shoot, I can take every night off.

"It's a tool you use to change the tempo of the game, but you're limited in your personnel. It's not something we want to do wholesale every game."

The no-huddle -- also known as the hurry-up offense -- was popularized by the Bills, who used the K-Gun offense almost exclusively when Kelly was their quarterback.

The Baltimore Ravens used it for 31 plays in last Sunday's 30-7 victory against the Denver Broncos, heightening the belief that it could be an effective tactic for the Steelers (5-2) in Monday night's game against the Broncos (6-1) in Denver.

"I don't think you can last with it," Arians said. "I don't think you can run the ball well enough and play the way Buffalo did. It's a very good change of pace, but I don't think you can make a living at it."

Ward agreed, but he also knows it can be -- and has been -- an effective weapon for the offense, which ranks sixth in the National Football League.

"It's something that Ben likes to do to keep the defense on its heels," Ward said. "They can't sit there and call in plays. They have to be in basic coverage and, by knowing that, we kind of know what [defense] they're in. We just got a great feel with it and we've had great success with it."

The Broncos, who ranked third in the league in rush defense (86.1 yards per game), allowed 125 yards rushing against the Ravens -- the first time this season an opponent has rushed for more than 100 yards against them.

The Steelers would like to try to do the same, even if they go to their no-huddle.

"Normally you pass the ball out of the no-huddle," Ward said. "But we run the ball as well."

All part of the element of surprise.




Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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