When the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals, they know that they always have to watch out for something different during the course of the game, whether it is an unconventional alignment for the offensive line, or the occasional Wildcat that they like to run with Mohamed Sanu, who excelled in that role during his college career.
In general, the Steelers have been prepared for it when they have played the Bengals. Sanu has three carries in his games against the Steelers over the course of his career, gaining a total of 11 yards. They have not run the Wildcat against Pittsburgh this season.
But they have run it more—slightly more—in the past three games since Andy Dalton was injured and AJ McCarron has entered the starting lineup at quarterback. Sanu has run five Wildcat snaps, keeping the ball each time over that span, gaining 23 yards, including a six-yard touchdown against the Broncos.
But he doesn’t always get the ball out of the Wildcat, either. In his two snaps against the Browns this season as a ball carrier, in separate games, he lined up as a running back on a seven-yard gain, and ran a reverse following a handoff for a 25-yard touchdown on the other carry.
On the season, he has carried the ball 10 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns, which may not seem like a lot to worry about, given the infrequency with which it has been run, but to consider that half of those carries have come in the past three games with McCarron at quarterback, it does put it on the radar.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about Sanu and the Wildcat yesterday, regarding whether or not they have to plan much for it. “I think you have to cover everything they do”, was his response. “We tried to make sure our guys are prepared for it, whatever it is, whether it’s the Wildcat or some of the other formations they’re going to show you”.
In the games that I have watched, I have need seen Sanu actually hand the ball off to a running back, and we also know that he has not yet thrown a pass this season, which is something that he has done in each of his first three seasons in the league, and done it well.
Over his career, he has thrown five passes, completing all of them for 177 yards and two touchdowns, with three explosive plays and two plays of over 40 yards, those going for 50 and 73 yards. He has been sacked once, and has a perfect passer rating.
The postseason is often the time that offensive coordinators like to break out some things that they have not put on tape over the course of the regular season, and that is a situation that could qualify for Sanu. The probability of this happening figures to be higher provided that McCarron is under center Saturday rather than Dalton, so it is something to be on the lookout for.