Bouchette on the Steelers: Steelers keep it in their pocket while others go "Hog" wild
Other teams call it the "Wildcat," but the Steelers call it their "Hog." It's the offense made most famous by the Miami Dolphins because they sprung it early in the season and it helped them beat New England and San Diego.
Pitt had it in its arsenal and used it long before the pros. It came from the Arkansas Razorbacks, which is why the Steelers call it their "Hog" package.
It's a version of the old single wing, where the snap goes directly to a running back instead of the designated quarterback, who may or may not be on the field. The Steelers used it several times in the preseason. They split quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wide and snapped the ball directly to Willie Parker. Twice, they split quarterback Byron Leftwich wide and snapped it directly to Rashard Mendenhall.
Once the season started, however, it seemed as if every NFL team was using the Wildcat except the Steelers.
The Steelers actually were the first to use such a formation, at least in modern times. In 1995, when Kordell Stewart was a rookie playing wide receiver, they would break the huddle and quarterback Neil O'Donnell split wide and Stewart took the snap. Stewart ran most of the time from that formation, but he once threw a pass to O'Donnell, who was not thrilled with the formation.
The Steelers have the perfect weapon for their goal-line problems, and he's on their sideline, ready to go.
Shortly after the Steelers drafted quarterback Dennis Dixon, they talked about possibly using him in certain situations this season.
In order to do that, they would designate him as the No. 2 quarterback, which means he can move in and out of games with no repercussions. The designated No. 3 quarterback can only freely substitute in the fourth quarter. If the No. 3 quarterback enters a game before the fourth quarter, no other quarterback can play.
The idea was to make Dixon No. 2 and Charlie Batch -- now, Byron Leftwich -- No. 3. That way, Dixon could play at any point, and the Steelers still could use Leftwich if Ben Roethlisberger were injured in the game.
Forget the Wildcat, stick Dixon at quarterback with the ball on the one or two and watch a defense try to defend that. He could fake a handoff to Willie Parker up the middle and bootleg around end with the option to run or throw to Heath Miller. At midfield, it might be more effective, the way he ran it for a 47-yard touchdown against Buffalo in the preseason.
Those arguing for the use of instant replay always use the bottom-line reasoning: To get it right.
Too often, however, the use of replay gets it wrong, such as what happened last Sunday in Heinz Field. Referee Scott Green and his crew made the right call on Troy Polamalu's 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown. They were lining up to kick the extra point to make the final 18-10 against San Diego when the signal came from the instant replay official upstairs.
That's when things became confusing, and Green did not handle himself well during those moments. The bottom line this time: The call was right until they went to instant replay.
The NFL's proposed solution to solving this problem? Let them go to instant replay twice instead of once! That's what Mike Pereira, the league's VP of officiating, told the Post-Gazette's Chuck Finder Monday.
Here's my suggestion to Pereira: Train his officials so they know the rules and also make sure they have at least 20-20 eyesight so when they look at the replay they can determine the Chargers never came close to throwing an illegal forward pass. That call is what caused the followup, where Green admitted he "misinterpreted" the rule. In other words, he did not know it.
The game last Sunday was merely the latest example of a contest that led to many Steelers fans talking about the officials rather than the game itself, and the league should be concerned about it because it's happening way too often this season.
Had the Polamalu play not occurred, the discussions would have centered all on football, and Jeff Reed would have been celebrated for another winning kick. Had the Polamalu touchdown stood as it should have been, he would have been celebrated for it, along with his one-handed interception in that game.
As it was, we had several days of people grumbling about losing their bets and fans wondering if maybe the fix wasn't in. I don't believe it was, but, according to the flood of e-mails I received and discussing it with fans, there are plenty out there who do believe it.
The NFL can pooh-pooh that all it wants, but in the case of public relations, perception is reality. It especially was bothersome to many because not only was a legitimate play reversed after numerous huddles by the officials -- more than one person told me he thought the reversal of the decision was made from the top in the league office -- but it came on the heals of the Steelers being out-penalized, 13-1. The Chargers were penalized for a second time on that last play but that, in essence, was a penalty against the Steelers because it killed their touchdown.
And more could be lost than gamblers' money. It's remote, but one of the tiebreakers is point differential within the conference and the Steelers lost seven points out of that.
First Published November 23, 2008 12:00 am