The Pittsburgh Steelers have just one more day before they host the Carolina Panthers tomorrow night at Heinz Field, during which they will be featuring their Color Rush uniforms in which they won big against the Tennessee Titans during last year’s Thursday night game. Hopefully it will bring them the same fortunes this time around.
If not the jerseys, then offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is hoping that extensive use of the no-huddle will be the key ingredient toward moving the ball down the field against a talented Panthers defense on a short week.
The Steelers ran the no huddle a decent amount last week—officially credited on about a third of their snaps, with good results, averaging over 5.3 yards per play with a mixture of passing and rushing, including one of their three touchdowns on the day.
Said Fichtner, per the team’s communications department, about the appeal of turning to the no-huddle on a short week, “we practice it a lot, so you have a lot of continuity there. I think that you’re not real sure exactly what they might have been planning that week, defensively”, he said of the Panthers as well.
“They do a lot of multiple-type things in their system, so in a short week, they may say hey and pull something out that maybe you didn’t get a chance to work on. You’re getting limited reps to begin with, so in the no-huddle system you’re able to kind of see some things developing and then check and have time to put yourself maybe in a better place”.
I went back and looked at last year’s game, and the no-huddle was also used a lot a year ago. Against the Titans, it was officially credited on 28 of 76 offensive plays. The offense averaged a very healthy 6.3 yards per play, including a 41-yard touchdown (explosive plays were what they lacked out of the no-huddle last week).
The inevitable conversation whenever the no-huddle comes up is who is ‘calling’ the plays in those moments. That was an extended dialogue during Todd Haley’s six-year tenure in Pittsburgh, which sometimes they themselves fueled, particularly Ben Roethlisberger.
So one reporter asked Fichtner directly if he is “allowing the quarterback more leeway” in the no-huddle. “Sure, no doubt”, he said. “He’s in the game, and that’s the other better part about having a veteran quarterback”.
Another thing that will hopefully be used more is play-action passing, which the Steelers utilize about as infrequently as anybody in the league, but they are pretty successful when they do. Against the Ravens, however, Roethlisberger oddly had not one but two of eight pass attempts off play action batted down.