There are going to be so many plays to look at from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 34-27 win over the Denver Broncos yesterday. And I promise we will look at as many as we can. But none wound up being more notable than Antonio Brown’s 23 yard TD to give Pittsburgh the lead and eventual victory.
The concept is one that harkens back to 1990 Dallas Cowboys. And in reality, even farther back than that. We can point to one man, Don Coryell, and his Air Coryell system that was so successful during his tenure and still a staple of NFL offenses today.
Coryell created a number system associated with his offensive playcalls. Each number represented a route on the receiver’s tree, making it simple and easy to learn for JUCO transfers when he coached in college. A “9” meant a go route. A “6” is a curl. You get the idea. Coryell led successful offenses at San Diego State and in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers. His schemes were adopted by his disciples. That included Norv Turner, who was hired to be the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 1990. He brought Coryell’s offense and used one staple play to win Super Bowls – the Bang 8.
The “8” in the route tree is a post. Coryell, and then Turner, converted it into a skinny post, the emphasis on getting the ball out quickly on a five-step drop. Hence the “bang” section of its name.
I found this video on Chris Brown’s Smart Football website – an example of Troy Aikman hitting Michael Irvin on the Bang 8 in the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills.
Those concepts never left the Cowboy’s playbook. In one of my favorite books, Tim Layden’s Blood, Sweat, and Chalk, Jason Garrett made mention his core principles still exist.
“Asked to describe his offensive foundation, Garrett leans back and says, ‘It’s what you would have to call the Coryell offense.'”
And if you follow our film studies, we often reference the Dallas Cowboys’ 2006 playbook. Todd Haley spent three years there, including being the passing game coordinator ’06. Some of those concepts have followed him through the years and we get that Bang 8 look on Brown’s TD.
Or more specifically, 62 Indy Z Post. A play specifically designed to be called in the red zone. And here, the Steelers were on the fringe – Denver’s 23.
The red zone part was cut off in the copy of the playbook, not my screenshot, for the record.
It’s dressed up a little differently, the Steelers are in 11 personnel, but the concepts are almost all the same. The F runs under the Y’s vertical stem, creating a rub and separation. You get vertical concepts on the outside with a go route and the skinny post, the Bang 8. The running back check/releases into the flat, the opposite direction of the F receiver so they don’t get bunched up and draw extra defenders.
Let’s look at the tape from yesterday’s game.
The Broncos are in Cover 1, single high coverage with everyone else in man-to-man. Three step drop from Ben Roethlisberger out of the gun. The vertical stem from Heath Miller actually creates a rub that leaves Markus Wheaton wide open. But Roethlisberger has his sights set on 7 points.
Antonio Brown never really stems his route on the post, we actually see more of it from Darrius Heyward-Bey at the top, but because he wins inside off the line and has the safety flowing to him, there’s no need to bend the route anymore inside. He and Roethlisberger both realize that and you get a very rhythmic throw from Big Ben. Three step, a hitch, and the ball comes out.
It’s on target, away from the cornerback and safety. Neither have a prayer of making a play on the ball.
It reminds me of a comment on the relationship between Aikman and Irvin in Layden’s book.
“Just to watch Troy and Michael run that play, you could tell that they had repped it so many times that they could almost make it a blind throw and complete it.”
The Steelers aren’t running this at the rate of the 90’s Cowboys, but it that chemistry feels so similar on this throw. Everything in sync. From the drop, to the read, to the throw, to the catch, it’s perfect execution in the game’s critical moments. All against the best defense and specifically, their best corner. It doesn’t get much prettier than this.