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More 'Trips' WR Sets For The Steelers In 2010?

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Just read an interesting article from Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports and Football Outsiders. The article is part of Yahoo's series that looks at the major strengths and weaknesses of all 32 NFL teams prior to the start of training camp. First, Farrar discusses the Steelers biggest weakness - the inability to rush the ball consistently:

The most recent Super Bowl team had Ben Roethlisberger's elusiveness in the pocket as its primary trademark; by any standard, the team's offensive line had degraded severely over time. In 2009, the team's offensive line yards ranking was the highest (14th) it had been in years, but the Steelers were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage on 20 percent of their running plays, which ranked 19th in the league. That's not generally good enough to get a team to the playoffs unless the passing game is firing on all cylinders.

Farrar then offers up a reasonable approach to solving the problem in '10 by discussing what their biggest strength is: creative and effective offensive play-calling out of 'bunch' or 'trips' WR sets. Farrar is well versed at analyzing team's productivity out of certain sets thanks to his time and work with Football Outsiders, which of course tracks these types of things.

I actually had Farrar write a 3,000 word article on this exact topic for this year's MSP Annual - it's one of the publication's better pieces, and even the most knowledgeable football fans are sure to learn something from it. Farrar goes into more depth in the MSP article than he does in his post on Yahoo, but here's what he had to say about how Bruce Arians' creatively uses trips sets:

The Steelers have used the bunch formation, in which three receivers crowd together on one side of the field, as much as any other team for pass plays. One great wrinkle they've advanced in recent seasons is the use of bunch formations in the running game. The Steelers will frequently put two receivers, or two tight ends and a receiver, in the bunch and use those players to help with blocking. Always in the bunch is receiver Hines Ward, long recognized as the NFL's best blocker at his position. According to Football Outsiders, the Steelers gained 197 yards on 36 carries (a 5.5 per-carry average) from the bunch formation in 2009, and the two most productive plays came against the Broncos in Week 9.

He goes on to diagram and break down two particularly successful plays by the Steelers out of a 'bunched' formation. Here's the link once more.