You may have noticed that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been gradually tweaking things over the course of the past couple of games on the offensive side of the ball. Part of it was simply a birth of necessity, but it was also simply about what was working. And it was also about specific opponents’ scouting reports, so there’s no guarantee that it continues.
Over the course of the past two games, the Steelers have been using a lot more multiple-tight-end sets, in addition to using a fullback and an extra lineman. This has happened to coincide with a re-emphasis of and a desire to reignite the running game, which they have been able to do successfully, posting around 150 yards rushing on the ground in each of the past two games.
Whether or not that continues against a team with a strong run defense like the Giants have next week remains to be seen, but at least against teams with poor rushing defenses like the ones they have faced recently against the Browns and the Colts, the strategy was simply to run them over with bodies.
I wrote about how they attacked the Browns after that game, and the story was similar against the Colts, perhaps even more so. I haven’t been able to do the charting of the game just yet, but based just on the snap counts, it looks as though they may have once again used the 11 personnel package on fewer than 50 percent of their snaps.
Jesse James or Ladarius Green was on the field for every play, and they were even on the field together once or twice. But David Johnson also got into the mix, logging almost a quarter of the team’s offensive snaps, and fullback Roosevelt Nix added a season-high 15 snaps, which was over 25 percent.
Extra lineman Chris Hubbard played 17 snaps, and all of them came as a tackle-eligible, which was on nearly a third of the team’s total offensive snaps. In other words, the Steelers spent a lot of time putting big bodies on other bodies.
Eli Rogers only played exactly 50 percent of the team’s snaps, and Cobi Hamilton played 31 snaps out of 54, in a game in which the Steelers pulled Antonio Brown for the final five snaps of what eventually wound up being a blowout victory. Sammie Coates contribute 10 snaps, but the bottom line is that there was plenty of action left over for the big guys to play.
The reason for this? The quality of the wide receiver pool right now is an obvious factor to anybody who is paying attention, considering they already have one on injured reserve and two more either sidelined or playing ineffectively through injury.
It only makes sense instead to turn to other positions to try to balance the load. But as I said, it was also based on the opponent and the game plan. This was the recipe for success against Cleveland and Indianapolis. Against New York? I’m not so sure.