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Steelers Film Room: Offensive formations will lead to success with Michael Vick at quarterback

Allowing Michael Vick to stay in the pocket with specific formations, while keeping multiple options on the field, may be a better option than beefing up the offense with run blockers and relying on Bell.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fans cringe to have to re-live the Pittsburgh Steelers' 23-20 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, but at BTSC we look at the film to analyze what went right, and what went wrong in the last game. As the Steelers now turn their attention to their Week 5 opponent, the San Diego Chargers, it is worth noting some of the factors that gave the team offensive success against the Ravens with Michael Vick at quarterback.

In fact, that is the focus for this Film Room article, but more specifically how the team can utilize specific offensive formations to maximize offensive options, as well as give Vick favorable matchups in the passing game. Here we look at three plays, all different formations, which could be some of the base looks you see on Monday Night Football in San Diego.

First Play:

It was predicted Vick and the Steelers would use a lot of shotgun formations against the Ravens in Week 4, and that certainly won't change heading into Week 5. When you put Vick and Le'Veon Bell alongside one another in the backfield the defense has to account for a lot of options. Bell running the football, Vick running the football, Bell out of the backfield and a bootleg pass from Vick.

As you see in the above play, the Steelers are in a tight formation with the receivers tight to the line of scrimmage. Off the snap, Bell cuts in front of Vick to fake the run, and due to Bell's dual threat capabilities he brings 2 Ravens defenders with him. Another defender is spying Vick on the play which leaves a 3-man rush and single coverage on the outside with a two-deep safety look.

If the Steelers can get this much attention against the Chargers, you can expect Vick to be on the same page with receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Antonio Brown and now Martavis Bryant as they win their matchups for big plays like the one above.

Second Play:

Again, with the versatility and weapons out of the shotgun, this play is one of the few quick decisions Vick made in Week 4. As you watch how the defense reacts to Bell leaving the backfield and Antonio Brown sweeping underneath, it leaves Heyward-Bey an easy out-route for a first down.

Not every play can be a touchdown, and this would be a perfect play call for the exact situation while Vick is at quarterback in the short-term. Teams will try to pressure the Steelers with 4 or 5 players in hopes of confusing Vick, and or forcing a bad throw. On this play it shows how Vick can still make quick decisions with quality reads and throws into coverage. An easy pitch and catch for Vick as the offensive line keeps him clean.

Look for more of this as the team moves forward with No. 2 under center.

Third Play:

This is one of the few times the Steelers have had DeAngelo Williams and Bell in the backfield at the same time, and it was a unique look which resulted in a Heyward-Bey touchdown. Notice the formation, after all that is what we are focusing on in this Film Room. Williams in the pistol and Bell the sidecar to Vick in the shotgun.

Off the snap Sammie Coates and Heyward-Bey are stacked to the left of the line, and as they cross paths and Heyward-Bey runs a great route in the back corner of the end-zone. What is good to see on this play is Vick could easily have thrown the ball to Bell in the flat. It wouldn't have resulted in a touchdown, but was the easy throw and decision to make. However, Vick progressed through his reads and throws a strike to No. 88.

The Steelers didn't out-scheme Baltimore on this play, but the formation gave the Steelers the numbers to out-execute the Ravens.


The Steelers are a different offense with Vick at quarterback. His ability to run the football has to be accounted for when defenses game plan for Pittsburgh. Add that versatility and Bell's dual threat nature and you have a confusing combination in the backfield when the team is in the shotgun formation.

Expect the Steelers to look at similar formations when heading to San Diego to not only help Vick make easier decisions, but also to help the team utilize the versatility in their backfield to their advantage. Running the ball from the shotgun is something the Steelers have done well in 2015, and with the offensive philosophy the team showed Thursday night, they don't need to bring in a second tackle to have offensive success. Rather, put your play makers on the field and hope the line can hold up as they make plays.