Pro and con: Steelers' no-huddle offense

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
8:00
AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Todd Haley did not tip his hand regarding the topic that has dominated talk at Pittsburgh Steelers' headquarters this week and more than a few Western Pennsylvania establishments that serve adult beverages.

But the question had to be posed to Haley, and it dealt with whether or not he would be more inclined to run the no-huddle offense from the start of the Browns game given the success the Steelers had with it in beating the Lions.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBen Roethlisberger and the Steelers jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Lions using the no-huddle.
“I am not going to divulge anything like that,” the Steelers offensive coordinator said with a laugh. “Sorry.”

What makes it just as difficult to project how much the Steelers will use the no-huddle offense against the Browns is a handful of variables as well as this: Arguments can be made for the Steelers to go no-huddle a lot in Cleveland or hardly use it at all.

The case for: The Steelers opened in a no-huddle offense against the Lions to keep Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from settling into the game, and they also wanted to try to wear out the mammoth tackles.

The Browns are just as stout up front as the Lions, and nose tackle Phil Taylor is better than Suh or Fairley. The Browns also like to play a lot of defensive linemen and not huddling would limit how much Cleveland could substitute.

The most obvious reason for going with the no-huddle a lot is that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger thrives in it, and it may be the best way to attack a Browns defense that probably isn't going to give up a lot of rushing yards.

The case against: Rain didn't hamper the Steelers' ability to run the no-huddle against the Lions. Snow and the wind that whips off Lake Erie may be a different story. If the weather is as bad, as expected, the last thing the Steelers need to do is run a hurry-up attack that could leave them prone to turnovers.

The Steelers committed eight turnovers in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland last season, and their top priority Sunday should be hanging onto the football.

Haley lauded the communication that took place among the players and coaches against the Lions, but that becomes increasingly more difficult when playing on the road and in a stadium where fans boo and bark at the visiting team.

Haley says: “I thought Detroit was real good (on defense) but I think this team's better. It starts inside with Taylor and (defensive end Ahtyba) Rubin. The front seven in general, I think, is probably the best front seven we've seen. We've got our work cut out for us because as we move into late November and December you've got to be able to run the ball effectively when they know you're running it.”

My take: the Steelers should use the no-huddle sparingly against the Browns. The weather and crowd increase the difficulty of running it effectively, and it's not like the Steelers are going to need a lot of points to win a shootout with journeyman Jason Campbell starting for the Browns.

If I'm coach Mike Tomlin I lean toward a more conventional approach on offense and lean on my defense and special teams. Make Campbell beat you; don't do it to yourself.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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