If you are like me, you are probable excited about seeing more of the outside zone being utilized by the Pittsburgh Steelers offense in 2013. However, just because we will see more of it, doesn\’t mean we won\’t still see some of the traditional inside zone, and power based blocking that we have been accustomed to over the years.
Steelers left guard Ramon Foster told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette how adding more outside zone will help the running game this upcoming season.
“With this outside zone, it keeps them on their toes, keeps them honest, and it opens up to what we can do best,” said Foster. “We\’re still a power team, it\’s just the outside zone caters to what we do most.”
When Jack Bicknell Jr. was hired to replace Sean Kugler as the Steelers offensive line coach, he talked about how he wants linemen that can run and bend. Now that Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and David DeCastro are all back fully healthy, we should see the youngest starting five in the league be on the move quite a bit.
Now, being on the move doesn\’t necessarily mean always running the outside zone as DeCastro was one of the top pulling guards coming out of college. And, while Foster is certainly not as mobile as his guard counterpart, he supposedly has dropped a few pounds in an effort to improve in that area.
We\’ve talked about the outside and its concepts the entire offseason, but if you need a refresher on the basics of it, Bicknell summed it up for Bouchette.
“It\’s basically, exactly what it says. [Blockers] are going to go to an area, primarily, said Bicknell. “The philosophy behind the play is that the running back can hit it in a lot of different areas, depending on what the blocking scheme is.”
Whether or not Le\’Veon Bell will be that running back at the start of the season is yet to be determined, but at some point during his rookie year he will be. Many have criticized the selection of the Michigan State product for his lack of elite speed, but Bicknell told Bouchette that all a running back needs to do is be fast enough to threaten the outside so that defenses must respect it. He thinks Bell is more than adequate enough to do just that.
Fellow running back Isaac Redman dropped some weight and worked with a speed trainer this offseason in hopes that he too can at least threaten the outside. Judging by the early reports in training camp, he can.
Bicknell goes on to talk about how cut blocks along with solid reads and vision by the running backs will also play into the success of the outside zone, and how it is essentially a downhill play when executed correctly.
So how many times can we expect to see the outside zone run in a game? Being as the Steelers running backs combined to average 23 carries a game in 2012, I would look for an average of 5-7 runs a game to be outside zone plays in 2013. Of course if defenses can\’t stop it in a particular game, the offsense should run it until they prove that they can.
The rest of the power running plays that we have been accustomed to seeing over the years – Counter 34 Pike, 22 Double and 14 Straight – will be mixed in to add the unpredictable factor to the ground game, so don\’t go thinking you\’ve seen the last of them. When that Counter Pike is executed successfully, it usually results in big gains.
If this young offensive line can just stay relatively healthy for a full season for once, the Steelers running game can\’t help but be better than it was in 2012 and what a welcomed sight that would be.