Pittsburgh Steelers fans are neck-deep in the discussion about Ben Roethlisberger and how close he’s going to be at the line of scrimmage this year, hoping that a change at offensive coordinator and increased vulnerability will force him to be more amenable to changes in the name of a better offense.
The Steelers had become one of the teams who spend the least amount of time under center over the years. That is not inherently a bad thing, as some of the best offenses in the league are the same. One such offense, however, is looking to tweak that this year.
Earlier this week, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator told reporters that they are going to work quarterback Lamar Jackson under center this upcoming season. Since entering the starting lineup, he has operated almost exclusively out of a pistol formation.
“That is definitely going to be a part of what we do this year — the percentage of which I cannot state at this point”, he told reporters, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “I don’t know the extent of it. But we are working on it and evaluating it every day”.
Hensley cites a statistic which claims that Jackson has only logged 127 snaps under center during his three-year NFL career, with under-center opportunities accounting for just four percent of the snaps that he played during the 2020 season, totaling 36 out of 889. Even Steelers fans should find that a remarkably low number.
“It’s something we will certainly use from time to time, some games more than others”, Roman added regarding the addition of more work from under center. “I believe it’s a very important part in the development of a quarterback from a forward standpoint”.
The Ravens are one of the few teams in the league today who run the ball as often as they throw it, so it is somewhat curious that they are one of the teams who are under center with the lowest frequency. But Jackson’s own presence as a rushing threat helps to account for that otherwise-unusual anecdote.
In fact, he has accounted for 2211 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns over the course of the past two seasons, all on his own. Before he came into the league, there was just one 1,000-yard rushing season by a quarterback in the history of the NFL, and he now owns two.
Will playing under center negatively affect his presence as a running threat? If so, how much is that offset by potential benefits in balance to the offense and to the passing game? Roman says that he believes playing under center is important in quarterback development, and their top priority is taking Jackson’s game to the next level as a passer.