If there is one aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense which constantly befuddles me, it is how since Bruce Arians retired/was fired the team has not run as much play action as they once did.
A large reason for the team bringing in Todd Haley after Arians’ departure was to help keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Shortly upon his arrival, the 8-step drop backs for Roethlisberger started to diminish, and the quick-hitting timing routes became more of an onus within the offense.
While Arians, and other coordinators like Ken Whisenhunt, loved to run play action and chuck it deep, it wasn’t the forte of Haley. But what about new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner? It is a small sample size, but early indications are Fichtner wants to run more play action than his predecessor, but the plays themselves might look different.
Take a look at what play action passing might resemble in the new-style offense Fichtner has been running off of Haley’s offensive skeleton.
Big game for the #Steelers this weekend with the #Chiefs coming into town!— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 14, 2018
Check out @GregCosell showing how @_BigBen7 used play action to move a linebacker and get @TeamJuJu sprung for a big TD last week.#KCvsPIT #HereWeGo #ChiefsKingdom @NFLFilms pic.twitter.com/G8fb1dUoOx
Again, with only two weeks under the team’s belt, it is too early to tell if the play action passing game will become a staple, or just a weekly feature depending on matchups. However, when comparing this season to 2017, there is already an uptick in play-action passing.
Last season, #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger used play action on only 9.5% of his dropbacks. The next lowest QB was Josh McCown with 13.0%.— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) September 13, 2018
In Week 1 Roethlisberger's play action % rose to 17.0% which ranked 24th in the NFL.
If you are like me, you are hoping for even more play action passing in the future, and it is worth noting the team would have to establish a running game for the play action to be truly effective. Sure, you can always freeze the linebackers with a play action play, but to get the secondary to bite on the fake as well, that is where you make your real money.
As the Steelers now prepare for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, establishing the run, and utilizing play action might just be the trick against a very aggressive defense who will want to fly to the ball and make plays.
Do you wish the Steelers used more play action, or is this something which is a dated style of offense which should be phased out of the playbook? Let us know in the comment section below!