It’s probably fair to say that the Pittsburgh Steelers may well be 6-2 today were it not for some second-half adjustments, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, as for two weeks in a row now, they have taken a deficit into halftime and exited with a different offensive game plan emphasizing spread formations and a no-huddle approach.
In consecutive weeks, they have scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the second halves of games offensively, while only scoring one touchdown and one field goal, combined, in the first half—with the field goal being the product of the field position provided by a takeaway, and even then it took the longest field goal in team history to accomplish.
“We were just looking at some of their defensive personnel groups, and we found that they didn’t have a lot of defense when we spread them out”, head coach Mike Tomlin explained after the game, “and so it reduced the amount of things that we would have to see, so we were comfortable working in that space. And that’s why we did it”.
Their base offense in the second half had become a five-wide set out of 01 personnel, with Eric Ebron as the tight end and Ray-Ray McCloud as the number four wide receiver behind the obvious ones that I assume I don’t have to name. Often going for long stretches without even having a running back on the field.
“Much like last week, we got them in a personnel group that reduced what it is they do”, Tomlin added later about the strategy of spreading out of the defense. “When we can reduce what it is they do and we’ve got that level of clarity, we’re comfortable playing ball in any mode, and that’s why we went to the structure that we went to”.
While he had a mouthful or two to say about their offensive game plan in the second half, he didn’t have much to offer in summing up what they have been able to do in the first half during the past two weeks. “Man, we were just getting hit in the teeth. We’ve got to combat that”, he said.
Even though they’ve won the past two games, a lot of players have been expressing frustration with the fact that they have been playing such flawed ball. Ebron, for example, said that they need to start faster, and essentially that the five-wide is their offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster also agreed that going five wide in the first half would be beneficial.
If the Steelers are to make any changes, we will have to see how Covid-19 protocols shape the work week, which could potentially hinder their ability to implement different things that need to be worked on through live reps.