The offensive line is a curious position. Unlike others, it’s judged by the sum of its parts more than the individual. If one man fails, they all fail, and it’s difficult for the others to compensate.
It’s one of my favorite positions to look at. Like a puzzle, it has so many tiny parts that must fit together. Or you’re left looking for that last piece between the couch cushions for the next two years.
We’ve gone over stunt pickup before but it’s worth exploring again. I can’t speak fully for previous coaches but it was a concept offensive line coach Mike Munchak repped the heck out of in camp. That shouldn’t be a surprise after the team allowed eight sacks on stunts the year before Munchak stepped in. Still working on the number allowed in 2014 but I can almost guarantee it was lower and mostly resulted from poor technique than a lack of awareness or communication, which plagued the team in 2013.
Whether in two or three man combinations, the line got work every single day. And this play against the Indianapolis Colts is a result of that drill work.
There are two important goals to successfully defend stunts. It has to be communicated with, in this case, the tackle yelling out “loop” to alert the stunt. And for the lineman to stay on the same level. If one gets deeper than the other, it’ll create an alley for either rusher to squeeze through.
We get stunts to both sides of the Colts’ four man front. A tackle/end stunt to the offense’s right (defense’s left) and an end/tackle stunt to the other. Given the slide protection, the pickup is broken up into two sides.
Right tackle Mike Adams and right guard David DeCastro are responsible for the twist from the LDT/LDE while the trio of center Maurkice Pouncey, left guard Ramon Foster, and left tackle Kelvin Beachum for the RDT/RDE.
We’ll start with the trio. Former Buffalo Bills’ offensive line coach Carl Mauck makes a great point about the duty of the tackle. The tackle needs to “flatten” the penetrating end on the sharpest angle possible, making him cross the guard’s face. Lets the guard get square and pick it up without the penetrator squeezing the gap. The tackle will only get off the penetrator and work to the looper once he feels the guard begin to engage. Getting that defender flat is going to take away that “B” gap rush.
And that’s what we see here from Beachum. Great initial punch, getting the end off-balanced and pushing him down the line. Basically throws him into the guard and center, who easily double-team him, keeping the pocket clean for Ben Roethlisberger. A quarterback can deal with pressure from the edge better than he can from the interior.
As he attacks the looper, Beachum does a great job of maintaining his base. Not waist-bending or playing too tall. As you come to expect from him, he has an excellent foundation.
To that side, the stunt is picked up without issue.
To the other, the defensive tackle is first with the end looping through the “B” gap. It’s a comparatively easier stunt to pick up with the tackle not penetrating as much, but harder in the sense there are only two lineman.
DeCastro passes off the tackle to Adams and gets ready for the loop. The two do a nice job of staying on the same level. Adams isn’t sinking while DeCastro holds his ground. Good communication from both.
The guard stays square to the end and absorbs the bull rush well while Adams seals the edge.
This results in Roethlisberger having a perfect pocket. He throws a bullet over the middle to Martavis Bryant for a 19 yard gain. It was the drive’s chunk play that culminated in a Markus Wheaton 18 yard touchdown.
The term gets tossed around a lot but this is training camp, day one practice being applied. There are a lot of things to like about the job Munchak is his willingness to rep this until it’s become muscle memory for the lineman.
The footage in Mauck’s clinic tape are what you saw every day from Munchak. And stunts with three man offensive lineman, which I couldn’t find footage of elsewhere.
It’s what you do on a scorching Wednesday in Latrobe that pays off in a packed stadium on Sunday.