I just want to apologize in advance before we get started, but I think you already know why I decided to write this article. T.J. Watt’s answer to the question he was asked, and the fact that he said it unironically, made me laugh. Okay, so I’m easily amused, and now you’re getting an article out of it, but it’s still a legitimate football conversation.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to face the Carolina Panthers, a team that has increasingly forged a run-first offensive identity to the point that they have installed what they call an “Arby’s package, one in which they have three extra offensive linemen on the feel all as eligible, for a total of eight.
The Panthers have an eight-lineman offensive package they call Arby’s, you know, the restaurant chain whose slogan is “we have the meats”. Watt was asked about what challenged that presents as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense that is more likely to put him against those extra linemen.
“I mean, we’re on the edge, so of course you run up against a little more beef”, he said, via the team’s website. And yeah, I chuckled. Because look at his face when he answered the question. It didn’t occur to him for a second when answering that question about the Arby’s package that he was talking about beef.
But, yeah. He’s going to be going up against more beef than is normal. That’s the whole idea of the Arby’s package: it has the meats. As in extra linemen, guys who are paid specifically to block other people, to be the meatshield between the guys with the football and the end zone.
Obviously, an outside linebacker isn’t unfamiliar with working against tackles, but frequently a team is also going to have a tight end on the perimeter or even a wide receiver or running back on the edge. Watt could be in a wide-nine alignment and still be slamming up against the beef.
And the Panthers have been running this for weeks, because it works. They’ve popped off for 185 yards or more in three of the past four games, and they’ve won those three games as well in spite of the fact that like the Steelers they’re 5-8, so something about it is working.
After all, we’re talking about it. Yeah, the Arby’s package is a funny name for a package with a bunch of extra linemen, but that’s as far as it goes unless it’s working on the field. Watt wouldn’t be fielding a question about it this week just because it sounds kind of funny.
No, we’re discussing it because it’s going to be a genuine logistical issue for the Steelers, and it will actually be quite interesting to see how they counter it. Will they respond with beef of their own, maybe some true four-man fronts with extra down linemen, even taking the outside linebackers off the edge?
Well, maybe. Watt did say that they’ve “got some personnel things to attack it”, so we’ll have to see what that looks like.