It's no secret the Pittsburgh Steelers were inhibited this season by their inability to run the football.
Mike Tomlin's team finished 26th in the league in rushing in 2012, averaging a meager 3.7 yards per carry. It's been a three-year downward tick in Pittsburgh, which finished 14th in 2011 and 11th in 2010.
But changes will likely go beyond personnel. Dulac wonders if offensive coordinator Todd Haley and new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. are heading toward a zone-blocking scheme. Bicknell told the Steelers' site last week he wants the team to get away from linemen "who get huge and then they can't bend and move." The new preference is players "who can move, run and have the quickness off the ball 'to get into people.' "
Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is ideally suited for a philosophy shift, as is right guard David DeCastro, the 2012 first-round pick who missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury. According to Dulac, Pouncey and DeCastro "epitomize the long, lean body type the Steelers seek to employ on the offensive line."
The zone-blocking scheme can be extremely effective, but it's not easy to pull off. In an essay from his great book "Smart Football," Chris Brown explained how the scheme requires total committment from a coaching staff and all 11 offensive players. Linemen must be agile, wide receivers and even quarterbacks are expected to block, and running backs need to make correct cut-and-go decisions.