The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame the Philadelphia Eagles not because of Michael Vick’s two fumbles, but because Pittsburgh’s Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley’s offensive schemes allowed the team to keep the ball moving when it mattered most.
While some don’t like Todd’s way with players – he’s hard on them – there’s no argument that he’s one of the best offensive minds in the game today. What I most enjoy about the system Todd installed with The Steelers is the constant use of receiver picks, and “hide” pass pattern combinations that work very well against man-for-man coverage.
There’s one play in particular that’s a favorite of mine, and I’m surprised more teams don’t use it often: the wing receiver running a short out pattern that’s just behind the split end or the tight end, who’s running an “up” pattern. The wing breaks off the patter at the five yard mark, and turns to the sideline, while the split end or tight end keeps running. The result: the wing receiver is wide open for a moment – all that’s needed for a pass completion.
Because the trailing cover person’s generally shielded from the wing receiver by the split end or tight end – no blocking or touching called for. This is in the normal act of play.
Haley has a list of variations of that approach, and he calls them whenever the Steelers need a first down, when it’s 3rd and 5 or 7. But it’s a great call on first down when you need the certainty of five or seven yards, and the opponent’s defense is in “man” coverage poised to stop the run.
Possession Is Key
While the Steelers can and have passed to keep pace with an opponent, it now focuses on the run too, and as part of the idea of just plain holding on to the football longer than the opponent. “I don’t care if we throw it 50 times, or run it 10 times; have the ball for 35 or 36 minutes. It’s the same difference,” Haley said.
In other words, Haley is willing to make whatever call or design any play that helps maintain the objective of ball possession. It seems his idea’s paying off: the Steelers hold the ball longer than any team in the NFL. It’s just a matter of time before they dig out of their won-loss hole, and return to their winning ways.