One of the odd departure trends that I have been watching over the course of the regular season, in contrast to how the Pittsburgh Steelers offense executed during the preseason, has been the fact that the offense has not used the no-huddle offense as much—sometimes nearly as much—as would have been reasonably projected.
While there have certainly been spurts of usage, particularly late in halves when time is obviously of the essence, in general, the team has not used it with great frequency in comparison to what might have been expected of them, even when considering mitigating factors such as playing with big leads and injuries.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger happened to make a comment after the game when asked about how he felt in the game, according to Missi Matthews, that he didn’t feel rusty. He also said that he felt that the offense “finally opened up”, per Matthews’ Tweet, due to the offense running the no-huddle.
By my count, the Steelers used the no huddle 26 times on their final three drives in the fourth quarter, which, without actually working out the percentage, probably comes out to about 85 to 90 percent or so of the plays that they ran on those three drives.
That is obviously a very large percentage of the snaps to be run in the no huddle. But it should also be considered that the fourth quarter accounted for a fairly large percentage of their total offensive plays run as well. And the fact is that the Steelers were running out of the no-huddle before that as well.
I count 12 plays in which the Steelers ran out of the no-huddle in the first half, and it has to be considered that a lot of those drives resulted in three-and-outs. There were also a lot of penalties and incomplete passes that inhibit working out of the no-huddle. So considering the context of those drives, they seemed to be running out of the no-huddle more than I would have actually expected, and more than Roethlisberger’s comments might suggest.
The real difference—aside from the fact that the Ravens were suddenly playing with a 21-point lead with less than 15 minutes left to hold off an opponent with a wounded quarterback—was the fact that the Steelers abandoned the running game entirely, which was the right call, obviously, given the circumstances.
Roethlisberger came out firing from out of the shotgun nearly every play in the fourth quarter, but that is simply what you do when you are trailing by 21 or 14 points on the road and are running out of time to draw even with your opponent.
Perhaps by ‘no-huddle’ he subtly meant to say that he was running his own plays, as Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley often collaborate on the play selection out of the no-huddle under normal circumstances, but frankly, I think the quarterback’s comments are kind of off on this matter.