2020 South Side Questions: Are Steelers Really Going To Run More Play Action?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Are the Steelers really going to suddenly start using more play action?

Entering Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers were using play action under 10 percent of the time. They nearly doubled it in that game. Of course, a one-game sample size is never a sufficient barometer, but the Steelers have also been talking about wanting to use play action more, so…is this real? Is this something that we’re going to continue to see more of going forward?

It doesn’t help that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not the biggest fan of using play action (and yes, you can run play action out of the shotgun), although the Steelers didn’t use it much more last season with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, either.

It also probably doesn’t help that the use of play action wasn’t very effective in the game against the Bengals. But you have to work at it more and show it on tape more in order for it to work more effectively more frequently.

The Steelers did incorporate more pre-snap motion into the offense this year as one notable change, although things appear to have grown stale, and defenses often just aren’t buying what the offense is trying to sell them.

But if they can get the play-action pass going and hit on some plays down the field, that will help every phase of the offense. And you can’t accomplish this unless you’re running it. And so we’ll see whether or not they do just that.

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