With Antonio Brown out, the standard – and the expectation – is the same. Win. But the path to do that? It could look a little different.
To Will Johnson, it could elevate rookie tight end Jesse James into a larger role.
“I see the short game being a bigger part of the game plan, especially with (James),” he told Ralph N. Paulk of the Tribune-Review. “He’s good in blocking, and he’s a passing threat.”
Our own Matthew Marczi outlined the increase in two tight end sets after the loss of Roosevelt Nix, forcing Pittsburgh to use multiple tight ends as part of their heavy run formation looks. It will naturally lend itself to throwing out of that personnel too, giving James a chance.
Johnson also spoke in a broad sense, hinting the Steelers’ short game will be a greater emphasis considering the unusual, difficult circumstances, saying the backs and tight ends need to be a “security blanket” for Ben Roethlisberger, hampered by his shoulder sprain.
I’m reminded of Todd Haley’s Hank concept as a way to use leverage and simple reads to create an effective offense. Curl/flat combinations with the tight end sitting down in the middle. They’re short, manageable throws, a little more difficult to throw the curl/flat to the field, but not immensely so, and usually result with someone being able to get open.
Add in Haley’s packaged plays and screen game and you get an idea of what the Steelers’ playbook could largely look like, especially in their scripted 10-15 plays to start things off. Mix in double-moves and vertical shots and you have your best passing gameplan to be competitive against the Denver Broncos’ top ranked defense.