Splash plays. Every team wants them but how do they happen? This article is going to look at the defense of the upcoming opponent focusing on the three big plays they allowed the previous or recent weeks. It’ll take a look at the whole play including details such as personnel, formations, blocking schemes and route combinations. As a follow up to each play, there will be the Steelers Scenario identifying the player or players who could benefit by running similar plays.
Week 12 Opponent – Cincinnati Bengals
Game reviewed vs. Cleveland Browns
Q1 3:06 – 2nd and 7 from the CLE39
Cleveland – 12 personnel
Cincinnati – Base, 3-4, Cover 3
The Browns have two receivers to the left with a tight end in-line to the right and a tight end in the slot to the right. The running back is to the left of the quarterback who is in shotgun. Cincinnati is in their base defense.
Prior to the snap the running back Nick Chubb (24) will go in motion to the right and line up outside. The Bengals adjust by shifting cornerback Eli Apple (20) out to Chubb and linebacker Logan Wilson (55) moving out to the apex between the in-line tight end and the slot tight end. This will be a four vertical concept getting four receivers to the deep level, where there are only three defenders. To the left Anthony Schwartz (10) will run a go route, and Jarvis Landry (80) will run a curl. From the right, David Njoku (85) will run a drive route across the field. Quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) will first look to his left but doesn’t like any of those options.
To the right Austin Hooper (81) in the slot and Chubb will run go routes. Safety Jesse Bates (30) in the middle of field is drawn to the drive route by Njoku. This leaves Apple trying to split the difference between the go routes. Mayfield comes all the way to his fifth option Chubb for the 24-yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – Putting a defender, in this case Apple, in a place of conflict where they have to make a decision benefits the offense. The Steelers use a lot of 12 personnel and have yet to attempt a deep pass to Najee Harris.
Q2 6:48– 2nd and 8 at the CIN28
Cleveland – 11 personnel
Cincinnati – Dime, Cover 1 Man
Cleveland has two receivers in the slot to the left, a tight end in-line to the right and one split wide to the right. The running back is to the right of the quarterback, who is in shotgun. The Bengals have six defensive backs on the field and are playing Man coverage.
Prior to the snap, running back Demetric Felton (25) will go in motion and set up wide to the left. This brings linebacker Wilson out of the middle of the field to cover him. Schwartz is in the slot on the line of scrimmage with Landry outside of him. Njoku is in line to the right with Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) wide to the right.
Landry and Njoku run curls underneath and Schwartz runs an in-breaking route over the top of them. Motioning the running back outside took Wilson out of the middle opening up some space. Mike Hilton (21) slips in his coverage (something we saw happen with him in Pittsburgh) and Schwartz is open for a 15-yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – If you can get Hilton on Diontae Johnson that would be the best option. They’re more likely to get Washington against Hilton and that is a winnable option as well.
Q4 13:51 – 1st and 10 at the CLE25
Cleveland – 22 personnel
Cincinnati – Base, Cover 3 Man
The Browns have two tight ends at the end of the line to the left and a wide receiver split wide to the right. There is a fullback and running back in the “I” formation behind the quarterback who is under center.
Hooper is in line to the left with Harrison Bryant (88) on the wing next to him. Bryant will go in motion to the right, taking safety Vonn Bell (24) with him and he settles in the slot. This will be a flood concept, with the three receives in the route all being on the right side of the field. Peoples-Jones will run the deep route, Bryant will run the slot fade and full back Andy Janovich (31) will run to the flat. Mayfield will use play action and then read the play from the top down.
Apple is in good position on Peoples-Jones so Mayfield looks to Bryant, who avoids the jam from Bell to create space, and Mayfield hits him over the top for a 21-yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – The Steelers have sprinkled in more 22 personnel as of late. Using multiple tight ends to put Cincy in their base defense is an advantage. Chase Claypool is the deep route here, and they could use Pat Freiermuth on the slot fade but don’t rule out Zach Gentry either.