Anybody who watched the Pittsburgh Steelers play against the New York Jets on Sunday saw that Percy Harvin was disrupting what the defense was looking to do. Though his cumulative yardage may not have been overly impressive—he did have a handful of significant plays—it was his threat as a runner that made the defense worry.
The Jets were able to exploit that, particularly in the first half, where they scored 17 of their 20 points. While Harvin hauled in a few receptions, it was his 33 yards on six carries and the impact that play had that put the Steelers off balance, so it’s worth taking a look at how they defended him in those instances.
It was the first play of the day that he was his longest for the game, as a matter of fact, as the Jets opened with him running a sweep around the left side for 13 yards. He lined up tight on the right side of the offensive formation, but took off running on the snap.
Meanwhile, the running back ran to the right, and the offensive line also flowed in that direction. That drew in Arthur Moats just enough for Harvin to get by around the left edge and run for a first down.
After a turnover and an 18-yard scramble from Michael Vick, the Jets had first and goal, and hoped to get things going with Harvin again. This time, the receiver lined up in the backfield next to Vick in the shotgun as the Jets motioned two tight ends to the left side. Harvin took the pitch left, but Will Allen and William Gay were able to string him out to the perimeter and bring him down after only a yard.
Midway through the second quarter, with the Jets on the verge of going three and out, Harvin got the call again, this time on third and two. He lined up on the left side in the slot, but motioned around prior to the snap and was right behind Vick to receive the shallow handoff. Allen was picked by the tight end, and Harvin was able to push around the corner before the linebackers could reach him, gaining six yards.
Later on the same drive, Harvin just just caught a pass to secure a first down when he found himself lined up as a running back in the backfield with Vick under center. He actually took the ball right up the middle as a traditional run, glancing off a hit from the patrolling linebacker instead of absorbing the full blow after a short gain.
The Jets were in clocking killing mode midway through the fourth quarter, taking the ball over after the Steelers just put up a field goal. This time, Harvin lined up out wide on the right side, coming all the way around after the snap for a deep handoff. It nearly cost them, as James Harrison had him dead to rights, but Harvin slipped through and turned up upfield for seven yards, though it was more than double that from where Harrison nearly took him down.