After the Washington Football Team pulled off an upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers last night, multiple Washington defenders expressed after the game that they were confident they would be able to emerge victorious, saying that they were able to pick up some of the Steelers’ offensive tendencies, and pointed to their last game against the Baltimore Ravens that they claim exposed some things that they were able to use.
While this sent a bit of a ripple within the fanbase, it’s really just par for the course in the NFL. Every team in every game picks up the tendencies of their opponents. It’s a part of the gameplanning process, and it is the job of teams to study their opponents to pick up their tendencies. The further on in the season you get, the more obvious tendencies will be.
The Steelers themselves have already talked about using tendencies to their advantage. Rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith noted that the Ravens in their first matchup tried to run the same play in the second half from the same formation that was effective in the first half. He diagnosed that tendency and got an interception.
“That happens globally”, head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier today regarding Washington’s comments about picking up his team’s tendencies. “It really does If you’re a good defense, if you’re an ascending defense and you have enough tape to look at, there’s a certain level of anticipation that comes with those you play. Our defense benefits from that as well. That’s not something I’m overly concerned about”.
Of course, while it’s a given that you will put tendencies on tape and that other teams will be able to pick up on them, it’s also valuable to install ‘tendency breakers’ in your offense by running different plays from the same personnel formations—and running the same play from different personnel formations.
Regardless of tendency, it still ultimately comes down to execution, and that is what the Steelers should be concerned about, because it is their failures in execution that are hurting them most. It doesn’t matter if your opponent knows what play you’re going to run, more often than not, if you simply execute it well enough.
For the moment, the Steelers’ offense is primarily predicated upon quarterback Ben Roethlisberger making reads of the defense at the line of scrimmage and finding the open man. When this isn’t working, they don’t have much of an offense.