Some of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best moments of offensive football this year have some when they are running the no-huddle offense, often with four wide receivers on the field, though they have largely moved away from that and now typically leave James Conner in the backfield.
There are obvious advantages granted to an offense when running no-huddle offenses, especially when you have an experienced quarterback who is able to diagnose defenses. For one thing, it prohibits defenses from being able to substitute players the way they ordinarily would. It’s why teams run it, after all, but it’s difficult to do constantly.
And it’s not drawing plays up in the dirt, either literally or euphemistically, even though it’s a remark that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made earlier this year, and basically had to incrementally walk back. “It’s just a play that, we had a look and—I don’t know how to best describe it, you’d have to ask someone else—but it worked”, he told reporters after the game about the go-ahead JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown.
This was after a reporter asked him if this was a play that they drew up ‘on the spot’, and Roethlisberger joked that he was about to drew ‘in the dirt’. But the reality is, and always has been, that these aren’t ad libs in the sense that they are being invented without practice, something that Eric Ebron talked about earlier today.
“All of those plays that Ben would call were all the plays that we would practice”, the veteran tight end said, in contrast to remarks made throughout the year by the wide-eyed rookie, Chase Claypool, about his quarterback’s magic abilities. “And as much as it might seem like Ben’s making stuff up, nah, we practice this stuff”.
“That’s situational where we put our receivers far outside and we would run up draws or throw it outside”, he added. “That was stuff that we’ve practiced for the last like three weeks. These are things that we understand, when we get in situations where we need offense, how to recreate and try to create problems for opposing defenses. So that’s really all it is”.
The Steelers, and just about every team, ask their players to know every position that they might play, and ideally, to understand every play as a concept, rather than simply what they are assigned to do on said play.
What is what enables them to do things like this in a no-huddle, where you could run a play or a route concept even if that specific player may have never run that particular play from that particular position, because he will understand what it is that he is being asked to do. It’s not street ball. It’s preparation.