It doesn’t appear that people actually realize the Pittsburgh Steelers barely used their most prolific offensive package on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, unaware of the fact that running back James Conner was on the field for most of the game, while the 01 personnel package with no running backs has continued to get all the hype.
Numerous reporters asked different players on Sunday after the game about the use of that package in the 36-10 blowout victory, but in reality they only employed it for a single snap in the game—along with five snaps out of the 00 personnel grouping. They did not run any other play without a back on the field.
People have naturally assumed without looking that it was again everpresent, because they used it extensively in the previous two weeks, but that was not the case. Nevertheless, there is ample reason to believe that it will continue to be an important and valued weapon in their arsenal, one that has been effective when deployed, as wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster talked about on Wednesday with reporters.
The fourth-year veteran was asked how he would work to stop the package, which features four wide receivers and tight end Eric Ebron, if he were a defensive coordinator tasked with doing so. “I don’t know, that’s tough”, he said. “That is something. We haven’t been stopped yet”.
“You can play man-to-man across the board, but Ben (Roethlisberger) is going to put us in the best situation to get the ball. You can play zone, but we’re going to have all the spot balls”, he added. “I don’t know. No one has stopped us yet doing it. It’s our bread and butter and we are going to keep on doing it”.
Of course, on Sunday, they barely did it, as mentioned. In fact, they ran it just once on a 3rd-and-3 play and it resulted in an incompletion, though that was because defensive end Sam Hubbard dropped into coverage and batted Roethlisberger’s pass down, which would have gone for an easy conversion to Diontae Johnson otherwise.
The Steelers have broken out the 01 personnel grouping, which primarily features Smith-Schuster, Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Ray-Ray McCloud as the four wide receivers, in the second half of games when they are working on a comeback from a deficit. They never trailed at any point in the game against the Bengals, so that could partly explain it.
How much of the look will we see against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday? Will it be dictated by whether or not they feel comfortable with the game plan they are executing outside of that package? Based on what we saw this past week, that may well be the case.