The Pittsburgh Steelers ran 235 plays of offense during the preseason, penalty non-plays included. On not a single one of them did they line up with four wide receivers on the field. And yet I would expect that we will see some of that, perhaps even somewhat significantly, this season, particularly to start the season.
You might recall that the Steelers will be without some pretty important pieces among their skill positions other than wide receiver to start the year. All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell is going to be serving a three-game suspension. Free agent tight end Ladarius Green is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform List and will not be able to return for at least six games.
While the Steelers have a very capable backup running back in DeAngelo Williams, who also adapted very well to the Steelers’ passing game and recorded the highest number of receptions and receiving yards of his career, there is no replacement for the receiving threat that Green was to have brought to the offense.
Jesse James might offer a bit more versatility in the receiving game than a Matt Spaeth, but he is a far cry from an established commodity, and defenses will not respect him—nor do I think this will result in him “making them pay” for not overly accounting for him. I think that some estimate his abilities, to be quite frank. And Xavier Grimble is untrustworthy, while David Johnson has only caught more than four passes in a season one time.
With this consideration and mind, and given the talent that the Steelers have at wide receiver—and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s propensity to utilize it—I do think that we may see more 10 and 01 personnel than we have been familiar with for some time, though not drastically.
The Steelers did begin to mix in some 01 looks in the playoffs last year when Williams went down with an injury. Though as mentioned they did not use the package during the preseason, it should be noted that Roethlisberger played only 19 snaps—and 17 of them were run out of the 11 personnel, with no real obvious down-and-distance passing situations to face.
With Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates or Darrius Heyward-Bey lined up outside, and Antonio Brown and Eli Rogers wreaking havoc from underneath, the Steelers can conduct a very potent offense out of this package.
All of Wheaton, Coates, and Heyward-Bey are capable of stretching the field, while Brown is a master of getting open and working back to the ball, and Rogers is showing himself to be an able pupil in that regard. Given this, I believe the Steelers can run an effective offense from this set.
It is a way to get their best offense on the field, since their offensive strength rests in their quarterback and the wide receivers. Of course, it is not a package that can be exploited with great regularity, because it leaves the offense vulnerable in other regards—even if Heyward-Bey is an able blocking threat, and Wheaton a willing one.