Steelers may look to no-huddle to revive season

Updated: November 6, 2003, 8:18 PM ET
ESPN

PITTSBURGH -- Tommy Maddox may have saved one Pittsburgh Steelers' season with his ability to run the no-huddle offense. He wouldn't mind trying it again.

Maddox became the starter a year ago after coming off the bench to lead two scoring drives in a 16-13 overtime victory over Cleveland. The Steelers, who would have been 0-3 with a loss, went on to win 10 of their final 14 games and reach the second round of the playoffs.

Now, with the Steelers 2-6 at midseason for the first time in Bill Cowher's 12 seasons as coach, the no-huddle could be a way to jump start an offense that has scored more than 17 points only twice in seven games.

With the Steelers trailing Seattle 16-6 on Sunday, they went to the no-huddle to score twice late in the game and give themselves a chance to win. Maddox looked more comfortable than he had in weeks, going 11-of-13 for 142 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 23-16 loss.

Maddox has labored through an up-and-down season, so he probably could be excused for lobbying Cowher to use the no-huddle more.

"I would like to do whatever it's going to take for us to win a football game, if it's running the ball or if it's spreading it out and throwing the ball," Maddox said. "Obviously, I enjoy throwing it. There's no secret there. In the fourth quarter, when you're throwing it like that, you can get in a little bit of a rhythm and start completing passes and start watching those guys run with the football. It was enjoyable."

Wide receiver Hines Ward favors anything that gets Maddox back into the groove he was in last season. Then, Maddox threw for 200 or more yards nine times in 13 games, with three games of 325 or more yards and a team-record 473 yards against Atlanta.

This season, Maddox threw for at least 240 yards in each of his first four games. But after throwing eight interceptions in four games, he was asked to cut down on his risk-taking. That strategy may have inadvertently reduced his ability to make big plays.

Before throwing for 226 yards Sunday in his second consecutive interception-free game, Maddox had passed for only 477 yards in three games.

"When we were balanced and got things going in the second half, I think Tommy became more involved and got into a flow, and the receivers, we got more involved and into a flow," Ward said. "It's all about rhythm. The second half, we were 5-for-6 on third downs. In the first half, we were 0-for-whatever, so it's hard to get in a rhythm."

Maddox also rallied the Steelers from double-digit deficits in each of their last three games a season ago, winning two of them, with the help of the no-huddle.

"I've been fortunate with teams I've been on that it's been a big part of our offense," he said. "I think it's a big part of this offense. It's enjoyable to get out there and kind of feel like you've got the defense on their heels a little bit and trying to guess what you're going to do."

With the Steelers probably needing to win at least six of their final eight to have an outside chance of winning the AFC North, they could be excused for gambling more on offense -- starting with Sunday's game against Arizona (3-5).

Cowher cautioned that would be the wrong approach.

"It would be hypocritical as a coach to try to win a game with call or win a game with something that would be higher risk than reward," he said. "That is not to say you won't take chances. But you have to be careful to not send the wrong message."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index