Tomlin: Emphasis In Today’s NFL Is Sub-Package Football

We currently find ourselves at the critical mass of the front office’s media exposure during the early portions of the offseason leading up to the draft.

Especially this week at the annual Owner’s Meetings, we seem to be hearing from head coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert, or even owner Art Rooney II on a daily basis, and you won’t find me complaining about that.

Tomlin once again spoke to the media yesterday on a variety of topics, but one of the more interesting remarks came on the subject of scheme and how the differences between a 3-4 and a 4-3 are being somewhat mitigated by the increased usage of sub-packages with five or six defensive backs.

He went so far as to say that he thinks “the emphasis in today’s NFL is about sub-package football because of the number of multiple-receiver sets that you see. Significant discussion regarding schematics revolves around that”.

This is a particularly relevant comment following the 2013 season the Steelers had, after which their most frequently used defense was their ‘quarters’ package, which includes three cornerbacks and three safeties.

Between Steve McLendon and Al Woods combined, the Steelers only used a true nose tackle on the field on less than half of their total defensive snaps. Though he missed two games, McLendon himself played only 355 snaps.

In contrast, Will Allen, who saw his first action with the Steelers on defense in Week 10, played 378 snaps. Prior to that, rookie Shamarko Thomas logged close to 200 snaps on defense, primarily as a safety. Even Robert Golden logged over 50 snaps toward the beginning of the season as a third safety.

The Steelers also had three cornerbacks log over 700 snaps on defense, with Cortez Allen playing 718 snaps despite missing two and a half games. Both Ike Taylor and William Gay logged over 900 snaps.

When talking about cornerbacks, Tomlin was also quoted as saying “man, you better have four”.

That could be a problem, as the Steelers only appear to have three. But they basically only had three last season as well.

Given the lack of cornerback depth, we can probably assume that Thomas will continue to be asked to utilize his versatility by essentially being both the third safety and the fourth cornerback, with the ability to cover in the slot, which is a good attribute to have, given how important sub-packages are becoming around the league and specifically in Pittsburgh.

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