The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense is seen as a run-first unit, but the past two playoff games have clearly shown that Bill Cowher is perfectly willing to use a vertical passing game early to loosen up the opposing defense.
The Steelers' reliance on the vertical passing game actually has carried over from the regular season. Of Ben Roethlisberger's 268 pass attempts this season, 42 percent were either medium or deep passes, an extremely high percentage. To put that in perspective, in Peyton Manning's record-setting 2004 season, his medium and deep passes accounted for only 38 percent of his attempts.
The downside to this type of high risk-high reward passing game is that it can lead to a lot of mistakes if not managed properly by the quarterback. Roethlisberger's decision making in 2004, his rookie year, deteriorated as the season progressed, and his bad-decision percentage ranked 27th in the league by the end of the season.