When I was a wee little lad—we’re talking toddler age—and football was on the old television screen, I seriously thought those behemoths (well, for the mid-1970’s, anyway) played on a field that was infinite in length.
You couldn’t blame my little mind for that. After all, the only thing I could see on my screen (well, my mom’s screen, I didn’t have a job) was about 30 yards of field that just kept going and going like a conveyor belt. I didn’t know touchdowns. I didn’t know stadiums.
Thankfully, I soon grew up and realized that touchdowns existed, and they were the most glorious part of football.
As I heard stories of Steelers training camps from the 1980s, and the things that went on all the way out at mythical (at least to me at the time) Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., I actually believed all Chuck Noll did was make his players do the Oklahoma Drill over and over again. At least that’s what the highlights on the nightly sports report convinced me of. Two guys would knock heads on a simulated play until one of them was driven to the ground or the running back was knocked into next week. This often resulted in fights, with the players on the sidelines hooting and hollering because it wasn’t them. (Remember when players would fight at camp, and they didn’t have to convince everyone they were still cool with each other as if they were members of a boy band that was on the brink of breaking up?)
Fast-forward to today, 2019, and the now very popular training camp drill, Seven Shots. Is this the only drill the Steelers practice at camp? I ask this because that’s what Twitter tells me on a daily basis (multiple times each day, in fact).
True to its name, the drill consists of seven plays from the two-yard line. Whichever side—offense or defense—winds up with the most “wins” is declared the victor. I get to camp every other year or so, so I can’t remember if this is an actual goal line drill, where the defense has to worry about stopping the run, or if this is a different kind of deal, where the defenders must focus solely on the pass.
Since there is no touching of the quarterback at training camp, defenders can’t really stop him via the sack, so how does the defense ever win this drill?
I guess it can happen when the likes of Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Diontae Johnson and Trey Griffey are involved (no offense to them), but how can anyone ever stop Ben Roethlisberger from completing a pass in Seven Shots? I’m sure it happens, but it’s got to be quite rare. Defenders have a tough enough time stopping him when they can actually wreak havoc on his person. But a Big Ben who can scramble without the worry of being hit? Yikes.
Obviously, I understand this isn’t the only drill the Steelers practice at Latrobe, but why has it become so popular? Is it the state of modern football, where stopping offenses from actually driving down the field is now so rare that teams must prepare for the inevitable: First and goal?
I guess it makes sense when you think of it in that regard.
An offense can drive up and down the field all afternoon, but if it has to settle for too many field goals, this could lead to questions about goal line efficiency (see Todd Haley’s many years as offensive coordinator).
As for the defense, Joe Haden can stop Drew Brees all afternoon long, but this doesn’t mean he and his mates won’t have to stop him again at the goal line (see those two darn pass interference penalties from Week 16 of last year).
I’m not gonna lie, I spent many years (even this one) thinking Seven Shots was what they were calling those seven on seven drills the Steelers also seem to practice ad nauseam.
At any rate, now that I’m aware of the popularity of Seven Shots, it will give me something to look for when the Steelers take on the Buccaneers in the first preseason game next Friday night at Heinz Field.
But Roethlisberger (okay, Dobbs and Rudolph—who are we kidding?) better beware.
The defenders will get to hit back in any goal line situation that arises, and the offense will only get four shots to “win.”