Steelers use of 'Wildcat' offense may be short-lived, but the idea is what's important

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley put together an unexpected wrinkle when Le'Veon Bell started taking direct snaps. While Ben Roethlisberger isn't big on seeing it again, it forces opponents to prepare for it each week.

The Steelercat? The Bellcat? Nicknames for the Steelers' direct-snap package featuring running back Le'Veon Bell could go by a variety of names.

Contrary to media opinion and coverage, that formation is not universally known as the "Wildcat," it's actually more of a brand name the Miami Dolphins used when they re-invented the concept and brought it back in vogue in the NFL.

The Steelers' variation of it probably isn't much different. And it's also something quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn't see being used much in the future.

And why would he? Says Ben, on his weekly radio show on 93.7, "I don’t like to go over and just be split out wide and take a chance that a (defensive back) is going to come up. I don’t think we’ll see a lot of it.”

Ben wouldn't struggle a whole lot in a toe-to-toe brawl with most cornerbacks. He outweighs the average one probably by 40 pounds, and will have a four-inch height advantage over even the taller ones (except for the Redwoods in Seattle's secondary).

It's still not a spot in which a crazed corner will automatically not take a shot at the quarterback the game works so hard to protect. Roethlisberger's reasons are valid enough, but more than anything, the gimmick nature of the formation can be studied and defended without a ton of effort. Todd Haley's offense depends on that "didn't see it coming" element, which is exactly what it did against Baltimore - the Ravens were surprised.

More than anything, and this is what's fun about Haley's offense, you never know when some wrinkle or variation will come out of it. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a direct snap to Bell with Roethlisberger dropping back to receive a pass, followed by a delayed screen to Antonio Brown, who was in motion toward Roethlisberger from the snap.

I'm just spitballing here, which is what it seems like Haley is doing when we see these kinds of elements injected into the offense. In reality, the way the Steelers' offensive line was playing, they could have run the Pussycat offense at them and gained five yards a pop.

The key here isn't the frequency, it's in the anticipation. The Oakland Raiders need to dust off the "Wildcat Defense" manuals drawn up over the last few years and they have to point it out in film sessions. They'll do all of that while Haley concocts another innovation off their common formations.

Or just sit back and laugh, knowing Dennis Allen and the Raiders have to prepare for Wildcats and tight end shovel passes, along with the rejuvenated Steelers running game.

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