One of the questions that comes up every year is why the Pittsburgh Steelers do not run quarterback sneaks. While there is some logic behind not exposing your most valuable (and usually most expensive) player to situations in which significant collisions are almost inevitable, the reality is that virtually every other quarterback, including Tom Brady, does it.
So why has Ben Roethlisberger not done it in years? He has said multiple times that he is willing to do it but that it’s not in the playbook. Of course he could just be saying that. But more likely, the team doesn’t want him to do it. Todd Haley certainly didn’t.
With Randy Fichtner at offensive coordinator now, however, he didn’t seem to entirely rule out the idea of putting the sneak into the playbook, even though he spoke very cautiously about it. We may have just seen it in action during Monday’s practice session though.
Alex Kozora, our eyes in training camp, noted that the team ran a sneak with the offense on its own one-yard line (that is, needing 99 yards to score). He called it a half sneak because there is no touching of the quarterback during training camp, but they ran it, which suggests that it’s in the playbook. It was during a non-tackling session.
It was a QB sneak but obviously, no touching the QBs and wasn’t tackling session. Ben just took step forward. Guess it’s in the playbook.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) July 30, 2018
For such a relatively minor play, its absence has certainly drawn a lot of attention over the years in the rare instances in which it becomes relevant. But it tends to get magnified when the call is passed over in a big situation and the alternative comes up short.
We saw that displayed with prominence during the Steelers’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home during the Divisional Round loss. There was one instance in particular in which they called for an outside run for Le’Veon Bell in a short-yardage situation only to see him dragged down from behind.
The cries for a quarterback sneak were as loud as they were inevitable. And to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with running a quarterback sneak, of course. I’m just guessing but I don’t think the rate of injury is all that high on such plays for the quarterback.
So what exactly did we just see out there? Is it a part of the playbook? Is it something that Roethlisberger just winged on his own? Should we expect to see it used this season? That’s the question we’re ultimately looking to get at.
I personally don’t care whether or not that run it as much as many other people do, but I’m certainly not opposed to it being in the playbook and being used. Roethlisberger actually did used to run it fairly regularly, and with success, earlier in his career.
Le’Veon Bell has also been a successful short-yardage back over the course of his career as well. It’s not as though the Steelers are not surrounded by great skill position players who can get a yard when they need it.