More than just a running team

Joe Theismann takes a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense and says Hines Ward could be key.

Originally Published: January 30, 2006
By Joe Theismann | ESPN Insider
Super Bowl XL is going to be a dogfight in the trenches. We're not going to see a 45-10 blowout or a 35-31 game. Instead we're going to see two well-coached, well-prepared teams fighting it out in the trenches. It's going to be extremely interesting to see how each unit matches up with the other, so today I'm going to take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense matches up with the Seattle defense in the passing game and running game.

Running game

The Steelers have a wonderful variety of running backs with speedy Willie Parker, the aptly nicknamed Bus, Jerome Bettis, and the multifaceted Verron Haynes. Parker is the starter because he gives this team something it hasn't had in a while, and that's the home run threat at the running back position. Parker is special because he can break a big run while running up the middle or by bouncing a run to the outside and just outrunning defenders. He has good moves, but his greatest asset is his phenomenal speed. That's one of the reasons I believe he could be the MVP of this game.

Bettis is the short-yardage back and he's used not only as a guy who can pick up easy first downs, but also as a kind of battering ram on opposing defenses. There's no way to really describe what Bettis does to opposing defenders when he lowers his shoulder and delivers a blow with his 260-pound body. One way to describe it is he crumples defenders because he does such a great job of initiating the contact between himself and a defender. He knows he isn't going to run away from anyone so he just runs over guys. After a while that gets very old and very painful for defenders, and that's one reason why in the fourth quarter of games he and the other backs are able to slice through the defenses like a hot knife through butter.

Joe Theismann

Football analyst
Former college and pro football star Joe Theismann has served as an analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Football since 1988. He also is frequently heard on ESPN Radio, regularly contributes to ESPN.com and has contributed to the NFL Draft.

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