- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

Pittsburgh missed the playoffs in 2006 but finished seventh in offense — eight spots better than its Super Bowl-winning season the year before.

Nonetheless, new coach Mike Tomlin asked newly promoted offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to simplify the playbook for young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Former coach Bill Cowher changed coordinators five times during his 15 seasons, and each time the playbook was expanded rather than replaced.

“The playbook was six or seven languages hodge-podged together,” said Arians, the receivers coach the past three years under Ken Whisenhunt. “We’re going to streamline it into one language, and I hope to simplify it for our players.”

In addition to trimming the playbook, Arians plans to feature looks rarely seen before from the Steelers. Pittsburgh, long known as a conservative run-oriented offense, sometimes will use four wideouts on first-and-10.

“The butt part of it won’t change, but I love four wideouts,” Arians said. “I like a better running game out of four wideouts where we can utilize them on first and second down rather than just being in a shotgun and throwing it all the time [on third down].”

Some of Arians’ ideas come from Indianapolis, where he was Peyton Manning’s position coach during the standout quarterback’s first three seasons.

“When you think of the Colts, you think of a finesse offense, but when they came down the stretch in the [2006] playoffs, they had 100 to 150 yards rushing in every game,” Arians said. “It’s just a different style. You don’t have to line up with two tight ends and two backs to run the football. Rushing yards are rushing yards.”

One for the books — Defensive tackle Grady Jackson wants to keep playing for Atlanta even though’s he suing the Falcons.

“I’d love to play in Atlanta,” Jackson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Atlanta is good. I had fun playing with the Falcons, and hopefully I can continue being an Atlanta Falcon.”

The lawsuit says the Falcons’ doctor, trainer and player personnel director erroneously told the media Jackson failed his physical while he was a free agent last March, thus costing him a much more lucrative contract than the one he ultimately received.

The three Atlanta employees supposedly leaked news of the 345-pound Jackson’s failure of an echo scan, a heart stress test he contends wasn’t suitable for a man of his bulk, “to chill any interest by other NFL teams in signing Plaintiff Jackson and to reduce and impede … Jackson’s marketability in the free agent market so that … the Falcons would later be able to sign … Jackson for considerably less money than his true market value.”

Jackson, who had just finished a two-year, $10 million contract with Green Bay, signed an incentive-laden deal with Atlanta in August. The three-year contract included a bonus of just $300,000 and the league veteran minimum of $710,000 last season. The run-stopper’s base salaries for this season and next are $1.5 million.

Jackson, 34, hasn’t attended Atlanta’s voluntary offseason program but is due at this month’s mandatory minicamp.

“I’m working out in Atlanta, but I won’t be going to the facilities,” Jackson said. “I still do what I do. I’m still playing great ball, and I feel like it’s [not] about age.”

In a statement, the Falcons blamed Jackson’s agent, Angelo Wright, for the dispute, saying he’s angling for a bigger contract.

Good for Goodell — Here’s a thumbs-up to first-year commissioner Roger Goodell for handing out what is expected to be an eight-game suspension to perpetually troubled Tennessee cornerback Pacman Jones today and for his establishment of a six-man players committee, headed by players association president Troy Vincent, to advise him on player issues.

Goodell also is expected to deal Cincinnati’s oft-busted receiver, Chris Henry, a less severe penalty today.

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