The Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason were not shy about talking about Matt Canada and the fact that his hiring has seen the team seek to incorporate more pre-snap motion and things of that nature in their offense. Though he was only hired as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Mike Tomlin holds an open door policy as far as good ideas are concerned. And Canada has extensive experience as an offensive coordinator at the college level.
The use of motion was a frequent question topic during training camp when members of the media had the opportunity to speak to players and coaches, and really, the only person who ever seemed to downplay it was Tomlin, who simply cautioned that it might take some time under the circumstances before we begin to see that.
But it really hasn’t. The Steelers have been fairly active in their use of pre-snap motion, and that’s likely to progress over the course of the season. One example of this is data from Seth Walder of ESPN tracking the percentage of plays for each team in which a player was in motion at the snap, and Pittsburgh came in at the sixth-highest percentage in the league.
In all, the team has run 18.8 percent of their plays so far this season with at least one player in motion at the time of the snap. Although I do not have this data handy, it should stand to reason that the percentage would be higher if you also include instances in which a player goes into motion by design but sets before the snap.
By popular demand: rate of motion at the snap for all 32 teams in 2020. Via ESPN’s video tracking team. pic.twitter.com/ozbJTHbXAv
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 7, 2020
I think it will not be a surprise that the Baltimore Ravens are at the top of the league in this category, by far, featuring a player in motion more than one third of the time, or 37.5 percent of the time to be more precise. The Rams are the closest team at 29 percent, and the Bills are third at 22.7 percent. Only four teams have used motion at the snap more than 20 percent of the time.
Yesterday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to reporters and was asked about the use of motion. He admitted that it has taken some time for him, as a 17th-year veteran, to adjust to that wrinkle and to understand who should end up where and when they are supposed to get the ball, but he is making that transition, and he also noted that he feels it has been an asset in particular to the running game.
It is interesting to note that the bottom half of the league in terms of snap motion at the snap features 10 teams with losing records, while the top half of the league in this metric contains only four such teams, with Washington representing the highest at more than 20 percent, with a 1-3 record. The Eagles, Texans, and Chargers are also in the top half, though barely, in the cases of the latter two, the Eagles ranking 12th.