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Steelers Week 12 Scouting Report: stopping the Tackle-End stunt

Pass protection has been a hot-button issue for this and many previous seasons in Steeler Nation. Historically, the Steelers have struggled against one particular defensive stunt: the Tackle-End (T-E) Stunt. This stunt was a prevalent part of the Ravens' attack on Sunday, and one should look for the Browns to utilize also.

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During training camp, you often hear sportscasters and pundits spout many cliches about the offensive line. One of the most prevalent is that the individual members of the offensive line need to get as many reps together as possible so they learn how to work together. Many say it, but few know what it actually means, or more importantly, how that skills is illustrated on the gridiron.

Defending the tackle-end (T-E) stunt is one example where a guard and a tackle must be able to communicate instantaneously and "feel" what the adjacent lineman is doing.

During a T-E stunt, the defensive tackle, who is normally lined up over the guard, takes a lateral step with his outside foot and attempts to attack the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. While he is doing this, the defensive end, who is lined up on the offensive tackle, is attacking up the field. Once the defensive end peripherally sees the defensive tackle move toward the offensive tackle's shoulder, he loops around the defensive tackle for the inside shoulder of the guard. The defensive end is hoping that the guard is so committed to stopping the defensive tackle, that he has turned his outside shoulder and attempted to push the defensive tackle up the field.

What this now does is allow fast-twitch freaks like Terrell Suggs and Aldon Smith to explode through that exposed gap to the quarterback.

The aforementioned Aldon Smith and the former Cincinnati Bengal Justin Smith have just about perfected this move. I have not seen every San Francisco game this year, but I'm rather certain that a majority of Aldon Smith's league-leading sack total have come from the T-E Stunt.

So how do you stop it?

First, the offensive lineman need to listen to the sage advice of one John Teerlinck, the former defensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts. If you remember, Teerlinck was featured in NFL Films Game of the Week from the Steelers, Colts classic 2006 divisional playoff game.

At one point, the very large Teerlinck was shown extolling his defensive lineman to "Read their stances! Read their stances." For whatever reason, I've always remembered that particular highlight. Maybe Coach Kugler might consider showing that clip this week during meetings, because reading the stance of the DT is the first step for the guard and tackle to defeat the T-E Stunt.

If a defensive tackle is going to fire straight up the field, they get into a track stance: very narrow base with a big stagger with their feet. This stance allows them to get off the ball with speed and explosion.

If the defensive tackle is going to move laterally, as he would with the T-E Stunt, the defensive tackle has to widen his stance and decrease his stagger. Most times, their feet will become square. Both the offensive tackle and the offensive guard have to see this and communicate it.

This does not guarantee there is going to be a T-E Stunt. The DT can be looping for contain while the DE drops to cover a hot route. Regardless, this communication preps each. The guard is now thinking that he must keep his shoulders square. He is going to adjust his pass set and slide towards the Tackle.

Most importantly, he is going to keep his ears open for a call from the OT telling him that the DE is looping towards him. While keeping his shoulders square, he has to deliver a punch to the DT that flattens him out as he attacks the tackle's inside shoulder. This is tricky because he is not going to get a chest to punch; the DT is turning his shoulders. Thus the surface area is much smaller.

Now, here is where the "feel" part comes in. The guard has to shuffle/slide and flatten the DT until he feels his tackle has him secured. He cannot jump off of the DT as soon he hears the call from the tackle. He has to time it just right. This,obviously, takes a lot of reps.

While the guard is attempting to time his release of the DT to block the looping DE, the tackle is working to not let the DT cross his face and get to the QB. As with the guard, it is imperative that the OT keep his shoulders square. He cannot bail when he first sees the initial upfield charge from the DE. When this happens, it creates to much space and the tackle cannot recover. This leads to the guard staying on the DT too long because he never feels the OT take over.

The OT has to keep his shoulders square, take his set vertically, and keep his inside foot heavy since he is anticipating the slant from the DT. Once he sees the DE loop inside, he then needs to work hard to over take to DT. All the while, being careful to keep his shoulders square so he maintains power.

Last week, the Ravens attempted the T-E stunt on their third defensive snap. The DT got way too much penetration, and Suggs came free inside. Leftwich scrambled and the result was good for the Steelers.

However, the poor attempt to stop the T-E stunt did not portend that good things were on the horizon for the Steelers. Currently on the horizon is a young and talented Browns' defensive line, featuring players like Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

Look for the Browns to attack the Steelers with the T-E stunt, and hopefully the Steelers improve upon their performance from last week.