The Pittsburgh Steelers attempted the fifth-fewest runs last season, while attempting the most passes. By and large, a lot of that had to do with the fact that they could not run the ball well for most of the season — in spite of the fact that they started the season out doing it at a sufficiently high level through the first five or so games.
Alejandro Villanueva is now going from the most pass-happy team to the most run-happy team. That is one aspect that he is excited about from the perspective of an offensive lineman, as he told reporters during his introductory press conference yesterday after signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
“The mindset when you know that you’re with a team that runs the ball well, it involves every single room in the offense. Everybody’s in unison, and it’s a lot of timing involved,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of angst when the team is running the ball well. When you have to pass the ball, especially like what we had to do last year, it involves an incredible amount of pressure, because you know the pass rushers can get on a rhythm.”
Villanueva has had quite a few tense game-long battles with some of the top pass rushers in the NFL. The Steelers averaged 41 pass attempts per game last year, while the Ravens averaged 25.4. That is a very substantial difference in terms of the number of times you have to go up against one guy.
“He’s going to get 10-15 passes in a row to set up moves, to be able to attack every single angle of your body, try different moves,” he said about facing a defender in a pass-happy offense. “He has 50-60 snaps to try everything that he wants to do on you. So it becomes very stressful.”
“For us as an offensive line in Pittsburgh last year, it was incredibly challenging,” he added, “that we knew we had to go with these game plans that involve passing the ball potentially the entire game, and not really practice or rehearse that other part of football that relieves some of that angst.”
“So that mentality when you have a balanced offense or when you run the ball, it’s obviously better for the offensive line,” he continued. “For an offensive line, it’s definitely an awesome experience to be able to find angles to the hips of the defensive linemen, to be able to use your hands and be aggressive, take more risks on your blocks, be able to work in tandem with the players to your left and right instead of being on an island.”
Of course, there aren’t that many teams in the league who can play the run game anywhere near the level of the Ravens. Half of the league attempted fewer than 26 rushes per game last season. Offensive linemen coming out of college today understand what the game is, and have adjusted to a more pass-heavy offense — perhaps with less anxiety.