Although we did not see it much at all this last game, with the Pittsburgh Steelers sticking primarily to their 11 personnel as their base offense, there has been an emerging trend in recent weeks wherein the offense more frequently deploys four-receiver sets, which has mostly featured tight end Eric Ebron as the fifth skill player.
The reasons for this are not obscure, and have been talked about frequently. In recent weeks, the Steelers have turned to this 01 look with five men up on the line in order to slow down defenses and make them more predictable by forcing them to cover five guys, declare their blitzes, and play back, trusting that they have the skill position players capable of winning one-on-one matchups before the rush gets home with just the offensive line in to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It’s a package that he likes for a number of reasons, I’m sure, beyond those already stated. For one thing, it’s run out of the no huddle during which he is calling the plays from the line based on what he sees. It gives him the opportunity to throw the ball around. And really, it puts their best offense on the field because of this wide receiver unit and the talent and diversity it represents.
“It’s a special group”, Roethlisberger said of his wide receivers this season. “I think it’s complete in a sense that everyone is contributing, and everybody is getting moved around. If you look at an offense, you have your traditional X and your traditional Z and F. A lot of times those guys stay in that spot. What we’ve done this year is kind of throw the letter out the window and just say you’re going to go to this spot, you’re going to go to this spot”.
“That’s a credit to those guys that they don’t need to be in their memorized spot”, he continued. “They’re able to learn the whole package and understand when things are changed what they’re supposed to do. In terms of just moving guys around and them understanding, I think it’s pretty cool”.
Of course, they still have their general positions. JuJu Smith-Schuster is primarily inside in the slot. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are primarily on the outside. Ray-Ray McCloud when he is in the game generally plays inside as well. James Washington has seen more variety in placement than most.
What is nice is that everybody is contributing. They have five players all of whom have at least 20 receptions for over 200 receiving yards and at least three receiving touchdowns. No other team in the league has at least five players with three or more receiving touchdowns on the year. They now have seven players with 10 or more receptions as well.