I don’t have numbers handy, but I would be willing to go out on a limb and wager that there are few if any teams in the National Football League who have run out of four-receiver sets more frequently than have the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the past three weeks, a trend that began in the second half against the Baltimore Ravens and has sparked two come-from-behind wins in the process.
The 01 personnel package featuring wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Ray-Ray McCloud paired with tight end Eric Ebron has become one of their staple sets, and it has produced numbers, with James Washington occasionally getting work in as well.
According to our charting over the previous two games leading into yesterday’s contest, Ben Roethlisberger completed 29 of 38 pass attempts out of this personnel grouping for 356 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions and took just one sack, despite having nobody in the backfield to block for him.
We don’t have the charting ready for yesterday’s game, of course, but you can probably rest assured that they were good, too, although none of his four touchdowns came out of the 01 grouping, and in fact one of them included two halfbacks on the field.
Why has this look been so effective? That’s what JuJu Smith-Schuster was asked after the game. “I just think we have so many guys who are versatile and can play any position on the field”, he said, via video of his post-game press conference supplied by the team’s media department. “We know all spots on the field. When you know the defense and study them all week, it just makes your job easier, and makes Ben’s job easier”.
“At the end of the day, we’re young. Guys are just ready to run”, he went on. “We have guys ready to come in. We have James Washington coming in. We just have constantly rotating young receivers ready to catch balls for touchdowns”.
Sometimes, perhaps, it is that simple when you have the right man throwing the ball. The Steelers’ five wide receivers on the 53-man roster are all 24 years old or younger, and they’ve all got some quickness to them, to be sure. They’ve got young legs and are ready to run.
And they’ve been running wild for the past three weeks when the offense has been getting them out there in bunches. We’ll have a clearer picture once the charting for the week is sorted (and I actually get the sense that they didn’t run it much in this game), but there’s a reason they keep getting asked about it every week: it’s a package that has proven effective.