We’ve written a lot about the effectiveness of being able to use the same concept in different ways. And one that frankly is necessary for any successful offensive coordinator in the NFL. And the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two point conversion play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks reminded me of that philosophy. Let’s break it down.
We’ll work this chronologically with the first of two plays. Thinking back to several weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals and Landry Jones’ first touchdown. Out of a 3×1 formation, we’re getting a snag concept. It’s something we’ve broke down before but we’ll go over it.
Snag, also called a spot route, is a three man combination. A corner route, a curl route (also called a snag, where the name comes from), and a flat route. This isn’t the exact concept we’re breaking down from this year but to give you an idea from a credible source – an NFL playbook – here is an example of it in the 2006 Dallas Cowboys’ playbook where Todd Haley served as the passing game coordinator.
The first read is usually the snag. The flat route helps widen the underneath defender, opening up the snag, while the corner stresses the defense vertically. If the defenses cheats on the snag or you get a single high look, you can fire it on the corner. If the flat defender fails to widen, you can throw the route into the flat. Lot of options and a relatively simple read.
Back to Arizona. 3×1 formation on the Cardinals’ eight yard line. A look at the formation.
The route breakdown:
Martavis Bryant runs a corner, Heath Miller runs the flat, and Markus Wheaton runs the snag.
We’re reading the defender on the snag. Miller’s flat route does widen the flat defender, opening up the curl, but the corner is playing flat-footed, taking away Wheaton.
So Jones works to his next read, Bryant on the corner. He gets separation and Jones fires it to him for the touchdown.
Fast forward to Sunday, the Steelers’ second quarter two-point conversion. We’re getting another 3×1 formation but from a totally different look. Instead of a spread set with two receivers we saw above, it’s a bunch set with a tight end, a receiver, and a running back. The receiver is motioned in tight to the line.
Bryant is again going to run the corner, Jesse James on the snag, and DeAngelo Williams on the flat.
Again, Williams’ flat route widens the flat defender to open up the possibility of the snag, our first read.
Now we have to read the snag defender and see if he’s in position to make a play on the ball. As we saw in the Cardinals’ game, the snag defender was flat-footed, able to drive on the ball and making the throw an unappealing one. But here, the snag defender has his hips opened up with James’ outside stem off the line. It makes it a viable throw for Ben Roethlisberger, who quickly fires it to the rookie tight end for the conversion.
Had James not been open, Ben would’ve worked to Bryant on the corner and based on the coverage, he probably would’ve been open, too.
It’s one staple play dressed up two different ways. Same idea, same 3×1 set, same situation (inside the ten pass plays), but they give two distinct looks. And it results in two positive plays. Great call, better execution. The Steelers are going to need to execute consistently in the red zone like this to fix their recent woes and become a team capable of finishing drives.