Steelers Running Game in Crisis? Week 1 Wrap Up From St. Vincents

The first week of training game brought Steelers Nation something they had not had since the Steelers victory over Miami: News about what happens between the white lines.

In that respect the first week perhaps brought a slight disappointment. At least for those living outside of Greater Pittsburgh and who do not benefit from the 24/7 radio and news coverage.

We did learn that Troy Polamalu, Ziggy Hood and Maurkice Pouncey came in looking very good and that was welcome news. We also heard good things about Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. And if you didn’t hear anything about a player, he was probably out with a Hamstring injury.

PG Plus Previews

Perhaps we should expect that. After all, training camp isn’t what it used to be.

Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower has argued that the Post-Gazette’s premium PG Plus site offered plenty of value, but at the beginning of last week much of that value was missing, beyond the fact that Ed Bouchette’s weekly chat had been moved to the premium site.

Otherwise, PG Plus functioned mainly as a vehicle for promoting the next day’s stories for regular Post-Gazette. At least that’s how things started.

Sounding Alarm Bells on the Running Game

Things changed at mid-week, when Ed Bouchette called the Steelers ability to make good on Art Rooney II’s mandate to run the ball better into question.

Initially, his point was simply that the Steelers only had two backs on the roster with an NFL carry on their roster.

Most fans seemed to agree that Bouchette was jumping the gun.

But then Bouchette delivered the goods.

Late in the week he informed us that Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers sixth round pick, reported to camp 20 pounds overweight – this was after showing up in excellent condition to spring practices. Without getting into too many specifics, Bouchette also made it clear that Steelers coaches had issues with Dwyer’s attitude.

Responding to reader criticism that he was prematurely sounding the alarm, Bouchette delivered yet another piece of inside news Sunday morning, explaining that:

Many of you thought I went overboard with a post critiquing the Steelers ground game last week. You should hear what many in the Steelers’ organization are privately saying. You should be worried, very, very worried.

Before analyzing the Steelers running game, Bouchette reported another interesting tid-bit, offering that in contrast to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers are having a much more physical camp – the Jags apparently are allowing little if any contact.

Is Concern about the Steelers Running Game Legitimate?

Bouchette’s the man on the scene, able to see everything in practice, and he benefits from all sorts of “off the record” conversations with scouts, players, coaches, and front office staff. So he would not be critiquing the running game without cause.

But should Steelers nation be “very, very worried” about the Steelers running game.

No, not yet. Let’s take Bouchette’s reports for what they are, a yellow flag.

Mendenhall still has room to grow (see Steel Curtain Rising’s next post), but Mendenhall gave every indication that he is capable of being a star running back last season.

And why write off Mewelde Moore so quickly? Moore was the unsung hero of the Steelers 2008 Super Bowl Championship season. Sure, in 2009 he fell short of the par he set in 2008, but, then again, who didn’t?

The reports on Dwyer are disturbing, and one must conclude the Isaac Redman has not made as much progress as had been hoped. After one week of camp.

Do not discount concerns about Dwyer, but let’s keep one thing in mind. Four games into the 2009 season, many professional journalists were saying that Rasshard Mendenhall had bust written all over him.

Mike Tomlin managed to motivate Mendenhall, and now those same journalists are saying the Steelers cannot live without him.

As long as the questions at this point are about Dwyer’s attitude and not his ability it is way, way too early to write him off.

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3 thoughts on “Steelers Running Game in Crisis? Week 1 Wrap Up From St. Vincents

  1. I’ve been more than a little annoyed about the PG+ site. My family pays for a subscription to the post gazette, I now have to pay more money to get the paper’s only beat writer’s take on things? that’s crap.

    besides, i honestly question bouchette’s insight and wonder if he’s truly has a natural talent for it or if it’s just that he’s privy to insider info that & any common football fan would have the same opinions. he’s EXTREMELY conservative in making guesses or suggestions about what is going on (at least on the free site or in his chats before they went to PG+).

  2. Tim,

    Yeah, that is one of the things that I have always wondered about, long before PG Plus ever started up.

    And that was why didn’t/don’t newspapers find a way to give extra on-line benefits to their ink and paper edition subscribers.

    As I said, I have generally been pleased with PG Plus, but so far in training camp it has been used more to provide previews to future stories — including the bits about Dwyer mentioned here.

    I have long thought that sports writers, not just in Pittsburgh, know a lot more than they print, and that they hold off for fear of getting banned from locker rooms.

    Months after he was gone, we learned that Tommy Maddox got into a huge shouting fight with Bill Cowher in 2005 — did no one in the Pitt Press Corps know about that?

    Bouchette does provide some more insider stuff in PG Plus.

    When Joey Porter got cut last year, Bouchette explained that he’d never make it back to Pittsburgh because he’d heard that Porter had called out Ben in 2006 in front of the team, and Tomlin felt Porter had to go for Ben to establish himself as a leader.

    This exact same story surfaced in the wake of Midgevillegate.

    As for him being “conservative” that is a fair critique, but you also need to consider the other side of the coin.

    Twice this off season false rumors swirled with varying degress of currency. First, the news that Arians was out. And second, the news that Ben was to be traded.

    Lots of fans bought these hook-line-and-sinker.

    Bouchette and DuLac stood by their guns by only reporting facts they’d verified, and in the end, they were right.

    (On the flip side, when it has come to contracts negotiations and free agent signings Bouchette’s sources have brought him ZILCH, at least since I started this blog.)

    As far as the chats are concerned, I agree that he dodges tough questions, either by trying to make a joke or by simply not printing them, but I guess that is just the nature of the beast.

    Thanks for the comment, I think my response is now longer than the entry itself.

  3. Lol. You definitely have some good points. I think he’s just afraid of getting banned from the locker room while writing down all the good stories in some book he’ll make a pretty penny off of someday. But I don’t mean to imply I want him to spread rumors. When fans are asking him his theories, why not throw out a guess and and make sure the readers know it’s only a theory and not substantiated by what he’s seen. But I guess he only tries to behave as reporter and not an analyst.

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