Labriola: ‘There Could Be A Return’ To Zone Schemes In Running Game This Year

What’s in a running game? How do you fix one that’s broken? What is the autopsy like, figuring out what all the component parts look like, and how to make them better? The most obvious piece of the puzzle is the running back, the guy doing the running, but it is argued as to how relatively important he is to the total success of running the ball.

There is also the offensive line to consider, and their blocking. And their coaching. There is the play-calling. The perimeter and in-line blocking from the wide receivers and tight ends. The play-action pass effect. So on and so forth.

But blocking scheme has to be right up there. And when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s been promised that they are looking at every component of the equation. Bob Labriola recently seemed to suggest he anticipates an evolution in the blocking schemes they’ll employ this year after a steady diet of the Mike Munchak coaching tree, with the guidance of new lead Adrian Klemm and assistant Chris Morgan. He writes for the team’s website:

Once before, the Steelers tried to implement the outside-zone scheme for their running game, but it was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the inability of offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who lasted just one season in the job.

Well, there could be a return to the zone-running scheme for the Steelers in 2021. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan, and the significant personnel all seem to be aligned in a way where that system could be successful in Pittsburgh this time around.

Labriola also quotes head coach Mike Tomlin from the team’s pre-draft press conference, during which he cited “schematics, formations, the things that we do to give ourselves a strategic advantage” as things that “need to be improved”, noting that “that’s some of the things that we’re working on”.

Improving the athleticism and mobility of the line with players like Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson should help them if they want to employ more zone concepts into their rushing plan. First they have to settle on a starting five.

That’s probably going to be a process that takes much of the offseason. It remains to be seen what happens at tackle, particularly with respect to fourth-round pick Dan Moore Jr., and how seriously he will be thrust into the mix to compete for a job with Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner.

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