Steelers huddling up for no-huddle

Team appears to be gaining momentum, confidence in fast-pace offense



Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 584 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and has been sacked just once over the past two games.

Why huddle?

The Steelers used at least 22 no-huddle plays in the first three quarters Sunday in their 27-11 mauling of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, then called off the dogs.

Tomlin: Excited for chance to beat Ravens on Turkey Day

Mike Tomlin used his weekly news conference to talk about the Baltimore Ravens game on Thanksgiving. The PG's Ed Bouchette adds context. (Video by Andrew Rush; 11/25/2013)

Over two games, the Steelers have sprung the no-huddle offense behind Roethlisberger like never before. Whether it is the formation, the pace or just the maturation of an offense and its line, the no-huddle is working and it would seem they would want to continue it on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore.

"I say the same things every week when you guys ask me about no-huddle," Mike Tomlin said Monday. "We go through a checklist of the things that we do, and if it provides an advantage for us in a number of fashions we'll do it continually. But there are a myriad of things that could affect the usage of no-huddle or the non-usage of no-huddle. We'll prepare accordingly."

Tomlin said Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton uses a lot of pressure up front and "we thought it could potentially minimize it, among other things. But just a normal checklist of things that we go through week-to-week in terms of determining whether or not it's a significant weapon or not."

Has it worked? Check. Do the Baltimore Ravens like to bring the pressure, too? Check. Do the Steelers players love it? Check.

"We have a lot of confidence," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "With this no-huddle offense and Ben finding his groove and throwing the football, just him being able to read the defense and choose a play, it's become really effective for us."

Sanders said the popularity of the no-huddle offense has spread.

"I think it's growing on this team, it's growing on the city of Pittsburgh. I think everyone likes it," Sanders said.

Going against a strong, bitter wind in Cleveland on the opening series of the game, Roethlisberger operated in the no-huddle in six of eight plays that ended with Shaun Suisham kicking a 47-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

It was 13-3 at halftime and 20-3 after three quarters when the Steelers stopped using the formation.

"We have one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League, he can throw the football, so why not use him?" Sanders said of the no-huddle. "He likes it, he enjoys it, it's been successful, we've been putting up points, so you can't stop doing it."

Center Fernando Velasco said the offensive line enjoys running the no-huddle as well.

"I think it helps keep teams off balance. The defense seems to get tired, they can't rotate like they would -- defensive linemen rotate a lot. It definitely helps keep them off balance and it helps us getting in a groove and staying on top of it.

"It's something we have to continue to work on and I think it's been good for us."

A wonderful Worilds

Jason Worilds played well for the second time starting for LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker, and seems to finally be coming into his own in his fourth season.

He had six quarterback pressures, by far the most among the linebackers. It could present an interesting dilemma for the Steelers after the season, Worilds' final one under contract.

Worilds is fulfilling the promise the Steelers had for him when they drafted him in the second round in 2010.

"I think in regards to him it's a continual evolution," Tomlin said. "If you think back to the time period that he's been here, he's a converted college defensive end and one who's dealt with a myriad of injuries really over year two and year three of his career, with his wrist and so forth.

"I think what you're looking at is a natural evolution of a healthy guy that is becoming a veteran football player."

The Steelers saw similar development in Keenan Lewis in his fourth season, his first as a starting cornerback in 2012. Lewis didn't get a contract offer from the Steelers and he signed with New Orleans as a free agent.

Worilds received no extension offer this past year and will become unrestricted in March if the Steelers do not re-sign him.

He started the first game on the right side before the Steelers promoted first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones over him for the next four games. Worilds won his job back for games 6-9. Then Woodley left with a calf injury and Worilds moved into his spot and Jones moved to the right side.

"I think just as a competitor he recognizes the circumstance or situation where we're thin at his position," Tomln said. "He's doing what's needed, which is being a solid veteran guy that's been around here and understanding our culture and climate and knowing that he has to step up and provide consistent play for us. And he really has done that, not only [Sunday], but over the last several weeks, particularly since LaMarr has been down."

Quick hits

* The Steelers are the first team since 2008 to play on the road Thursday night after playing on the road Sunday.

* Roethlisberger, who has not missed a snap on offense (although not all at quarterback in the handful of wildcat formations the team has used), is on pace to break his record of 4,328 yards in a season (2009). He has 3,118 yards.

* Antonio Brown also is on pace to snap Hines Ward's record of 112 receptions (2002) and Yancey Thigpen's 1,398 yards (1997). Brown has 80 catches for 1,044 yards.

* New sod is being placed on Heinz Field and will be there for Pitt's game Friday against Miami.

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


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