While head coach Mike Tomlin said that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not get the opportunity to take the ‘step back’ approach that ordinarily comes with a standard bye week, it seems as though they still found some time to add a couple of different wrinkles to the game plan before their next game.
That was most evident in the use of the wide receivers on jet sweeps and end arounds throughout the game featuring Ray-Ray McCloud on his first offensive touch of the season and Chase Claypool, who scored the first points of the game on a two-yard touchdown for the home team.
It showed up again in a big way at the start of the second half when McCloud got another chance to put the ball in his hands on offense. This time, he had great blocking in front of him to allow him to get into open space, which essentially turned the play into a punt return, which he very nearly took the distance. In all, he got 58 yards on the play, setting up the offense with a first and goal.
The Steelers had been making use of much more motion before and at the snap this season, which the team has pretty much acknowledged all along was in large part due to the influence of new quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, who has extensive experience as an offensive coordinator at the college level.
They began using McCloud on offense as a pre-snap motion decoy in their last game, setting up the inevitable, which would be his actually getting the ball in his hands. The third-year player has shown to be effective in the open field as the team’s kick returner, which has now extended onto the offensive side of the ball.
The Steelers ran what they would likely call a run-game-extension play at the end of their first drive of the second half as well, with Claypool getting a screen pass with three blockers in front of him at the goal line, including Trey Edmunds. It was basically a long handoff to the left, for a five-yard score.
In all, the offense put the ball directly into their wide receivers’ hands five times on the afternoon, with a good bit of success, though the two really notable plays were already highlighted above. McCloud had one more carry for five yards, while Claypool had two more carries, one for one yard, one for three.
But that’s five wide receiver sweeps that will be on tape for the Cleveland Browns and the rest of their upcoming opponents. Five plays that can help set up the rest of the offense, whether it’s just window dressing or a double-reverse or a flea flicker.
Getting two big plays—a double-explosive play and a touchdown—on five wide receiver runs, and four successful plays overall, is a great start. Claypool’s three-yard run converted on third and two, and McCloud’s five-yarder came on first down. You take an 80 percent success rate and run home with it.