Steelers will run behind hybrid blocking scheme in 2013

Justin K. Aller

While the team will be entering 2013 with a new offensive line coach and opening-day starter, the team will not be committing itself to wholesale philosophy changes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed members of the media on Tuesday at the owner's meetings. He was asked about the rumors which have the team transitioning to a zone-block running scheme in 2013, after the team collectively recorded one of the worst rushing performances in franchise history.

According to Tomlin, the team will be looking into it through camp, and hope to use elements of it in their 2013 game-plans; but the team will not commit itself to a philosophy it does not have the means to implement.

When Sean Kugler vacated his position to become the head coach at his alma-mater UTEP, the team replaced him with Jack Bicknell, Jr., who was seen as a zone-blocking artist upon his hiring. Despite his experience base, the team will not expect their roster to completely change their mindset in just one training-camp.

The coaching staff and front office know who they have personnel wise, and will not ask their current players to stray too far from their own strengths; but zone-blocking elements will be installed, creating a hybrid version of the man-blocking scheme of previous years. Whether or not this is a plan to slowly transition the team to a zone-scheme for the long-term future has yet to be seen, although should the team find the vast improvement it seeks, they may just continue doing what works.

This hybrid scheme will also benefit the running backs, as Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have been deemed unfit for strictly-zone-blocked duty. Both could benefit from the change-up in schematics, granting the team extra time to find more-worthy candidates.

If there was ever a time to begin making such a transition, it is now. Recently re-signed Ramon Foster is now the eldest member of the offensive line, in his fifth NFL season. The team's accrued youth will be able to grow with the new system, rather than attempting to force it down the throats of entrenched veterans.

While it all sounds great in theory, as Mike Tomlin puts it, "This is all March talk." The final stat lines and play-off seedings in 2013 will determine whether this new hybrid approach was a success, or a failure.

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