There isn’t a quarterback in the NFL who spends more of his time lining up out of the shotgun than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. It’s a trait that has developed over the course of the past decade that has become pretty rigid as time has gone on. It’s simply what he does.
Or as he told reporters yesterday, it’s what the Steelers do. When asked why it’s beneficial to the Steelers’ offense to run so much out of the shotgun, he said, “it’s just a matter of the play call, whether it’s pistol, shotgun, under center. There’s no real rhyme or reason”.
“I think there’s certain things that are set up that will look the same, so you want to have the plays that look the same whether you’re in the shotgun or pistol, under center”, he went on. “I don’t come in here on Wednesday and say hey let’s go shotgun on every play. It’s just the way that the game plan is installed”.
While what he’s saying might technically be true, he is leaving out the fact that he is one of the principle architects of the game plan every week, and in some scenarios is even calling the plays—though of course, the shotgun is preferred by everybody in no-huddle and hurry-up situations.
The fact of the matter is that the shotgun approach reflects Roethlisberger’s preferences, though I feel I’m stating the obvious in writing this. But it’s also true that the entire league has gradually shifted more and more toward using the shotgun to a great extent.
It is, in part, a reflection of the college game having its influence on the NFL as the era of college players who near-exclusively ran out of the shotgun are now in the NFL. We always used to hear about rookie quarterbacks that they’re going to have to learn how to play from under center.
But generally, they don’t. At least not much. For example, in an article from ESPN at the start of the 2018 season, it was noted that the use of shotgun formations rose from under 20 percent in 2006 all the way to about 60 percent of the time. In the two-plus years since then, I’m sure that rate has only accelerated.
So does it matter? Not really. Generally speaking, there isn’t really anything you can’t do from the shotgun that you can do under center. You can still run play-action from the shotgun, or from the pistol formation, and as a bonus, you don’t have to so clearly turn your back to the line of scrimmage in doing it.