Todd Haley’s run offense has flourished during the tenure of offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Since his arrival, the mixture of zone and power blocking schemes featuring both pulling guards and backside TE’s has been a potent combination.
This was again on display during Week 1 against Washington, and if you missed the film room session documenting how this works with a particular focus on the TE position make sure you check that out now.
This article will focus specifically on the execution of the interior linemen, and how they seem to be gelling into an incredibly cohesive unit.
A play that demonstrates this particularly well happened at 4:53 in the second quarter. The Redskins lined up in a sub-package, and, as they did throughout the night, kept their two interior linemen on top of Decastro and Pouncey with two pass rushers on the outside. Gilbert stars on this play as he athletically pulls across the formation and getting up the field to lead Williams soon obliterating the LB Mason (54) to create a seam.
Something to note about the success of the Steelers running game, especially in the plays featured in this article, is that they’re ripping off huge chunks of yardage while in the shotgun formation. Running out of this formation is an interesting tactic because Roethlisberger often will option into a pass, based on the defense's alignment. It is not an attractive option for opponents to stuff the box with seven men because Ben has been so prolific throwing deep nine routes, fades, and seam routes down the middle.
The following play is a good example of why a six-man defensive front is a good matchup for the Steelers running game right now.
The Steelers are driving and have the ball at the Washington 49. They line up in the shotgun while Washington counters with another sub-package showing a six-man front.
What happens next is an excellent example of how cohesive offensive line play makes for a successful running attack. Foster and Pouncey do a fantastic job engaging the two interior linemen while Decastro shows off some nice footwork finding then sealing off Foster. (54) Once again Gilbert gets all the way over to lead the point of attack and displaces 51. Williams patiently allows the combination of Decastro, Pouncey, and Gilbert to open just enough of a hole to dart through for a 9 yard gain.
Two major strengths of the Steelers offense over the last 3 years has been the combination of the power counter running game, and a devastating deep passing game. A pass-run option out of the shotgun formation marries those strengths and utilizes both the athleticism of the Steelers offensive line and abundance of talent the Steelers have at the skill positions. It will be interesting to watch how the defensive minds of the NFL counter this attack.