Even Steelers' Ward favors return to emphasizing run game


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Hines Ward's personal goals would be achieved more easily in an offense that leaned heavily on the pass. As he plays into his football dotage, the more he adds to his receiving statistics, the closer he can get to the Hall of Fame.

Instead, the most-productive receiver in Steelers history is the latest to join the growing list in the organization who believes the offense must run more consistently in 2010.

"Last year, we had a prolific offense," Ward noted. "We had two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard back and a 4,000-yard quarterback, and we were out of the playoffs. Go figure that."

Others have been doing just that. It began when Steelers president Art Rooney said in January, "We need to figure out how to get better running the football."

It continued in March when coach Mike Tomlin affirmed his intent to improve his ground game.

"We've got to run the ball more effectively in critical situations because that's how we desire to play football, and it increases our chances of winning," Tomlin said. "It makes us a more dominant football team."

To that end, the Steelers spent their weekend minicamp using a variety of players at fullback -- Frank Summers, who played some there as a rookie; converted rookie defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor, running back Isaac Redman and tight ends David Johnson and Sean McHugh, who have played the position for the Steelers.

"I see us working on it more in walk-throughs," Summers said of the running game. "There's more emphasis on it, we're going over it in meetings."

Other circumstances should speed the process, including the suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least the first four games of the season and the trade of receiver Santonio Holmes.

Ward sees the Steelers running more, particularly in the early part of the season when Roethlisberger is not available.

"Yeah, I do, just to be more balanced. I mean it's great to put up numbers but to complement our defense -- who weren't as powerful as they normally are -- we have to control the ball more, time of possession. I suspect we can."

Ward believes Roethlisberger's desire and ability to pass influenced some of the strategy.

"We don't try to throw the ball. It's just, in some cases, Ben likes to run the no-huddle and, when you run the no-huddle, you add probably about 10-15 more attempts to your passing plays. So, when he throws 20-25 times, add 10-15 more attempts by doing the spread huddle.

"It's something that works for us. We were good, we just have to be better in the red zone. I don't think we had problems driving up and down the field, but we have to do a better job when we get down in the red zone and put more focus and emphasis on that."

Ward also said they can return to a strong running game behind Rashard Mendenhall and the addition of rookie Jonathan Dwyer.

"I predict we'll be more balanced. Look for Mendenhall, for us to use a lot of him. Dwyer looks like he's coming on strong. Who knows? I would like to be a more-balanced team, I think it complements our defense and makes us a better ball team."

New helmet for Big Ben

Roethlisberger, who had been wearing a more traditional looking helmet, has switched to a Riddell Revolution Speed helmet that provides more head protection. He wore the helmet during his two spring practices April 19-20. Roethlisberger missed a game in Baltimore in November because of concussion-like symptoms from a hit the previous game.


For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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