The read-option offense is not new to the NFL as several teams ran it with success last season. It’s also not new to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who is entering his 41st year as a coach in the league. Thursday afternoon, David Todd of ESPN 970 sat down with LeBeau, and he asked him if he thinks the read-option is here to stay for a while.
“I think it’s going to be around, definitely on the short-term, but the long-term remains to be seen,” said LeBeau. “But success is always reinforced in this league, and they’ve had a lot of success with that attack, no doubt.”
The Steelers open up their 2013 season Sunday at Heinz Field against the Tennessee Titans and LeBeau is well aware that they are likely to run the read-option with their mobile quarterback Jake Locker.
“We could very easily see it from the Tennessee Titans, and we spent a considerable amount of time; you have to be ready for all types of offenses. The no-huddles, the spread, the no-backs, the extra backs, the extra tight ends and now the read-option is just one more gun that we got to be able to silence,” he said.
Sunday will be the first time that Locker has faced the Steelers in his career as he did not play in the previous two meetings between the two teams.
Shutting down the read-option involves making sure the quarterback is hit as often as possible and on Thursday, the league released an officiating video in which NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says read-option quarterbacks can be hit like runners, even if they don’t have the ball.
“He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play,” Blandino said in the video. “The quarterback makes the pitch, he’s still a runner — he can be hit like a runner until he’s clearly out of the play.”
Still, defensive players are not allowed to hit the quarterback if it is obvious that the quarterback doesn’t have the ball anymore, and it will result in an unnecessary roughness penalty if they do.
“If the quarterback is out of the pocket, he’s clearly out of the play, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted,” Blandino said.
LeBeau told Todd that he’s prepared his defense for the task at hand this Sunday.
“We try to get our guys acquainted with where they got to be and what they got to see to get it stopped, but we’ll see it, and we’ll see how well we do against it, and I know our guys will play hard,” he said.
Should the defense effectively silence the Titans read-option gun on Sunday, maybe a few other teams that are on the schedule that have the personnel to run it will think twice about using it when they face the Steelers.
While success might be reinforced in the league, so too is failure.