Change. Motion. Inconsistent formations. Line shifts. These are effective ways a football offense keeps the opposing defense off balance. Coincidentally, these characteristics are what offensive coordinator Matt Canada brings to the new Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive scheme. We’ve already had some exposure to Canada’s “Motion Magic”, but as we study the current OTA’s, we are gaining more personnel insight as to what to expect in 2021.
Today was JuJu Smith-Schuster’s turn at a press conference. After fielding a plethora of questions surrounding his eventful offseason in free agency, he started talking about what he’s seen in the offense thus far. Coming off a 2020 season of playing more in the inside slot position, Smith-Schuster explained he is looking to play on the outside as well. This is understandable, as he is playing on a “prove it” contract, he wants to show his versatility at the receiver position. With this being said, it begs the question, where can we expect the other receivers to land on the field?
Coach Canada has been known to steadily rotate players at skill positions throughout games. So much so, this may replicate hockey lines and shifts. This bodes well for the 2021 Steelers’ receiving corps, with talent in both the inside and outside of the box. In his press conference, Smith-Schuster explained Ray-Ray McCloud is the best slot receiver behind him. We were able to see a glimmer of this in 2020, albeit on a sweep play, against the Philadelphia Eagles on a 58-yard sprint resulting in a first-and-goal for the offense. Adding McCloud into the receiver rotation is a major lift, as the depth continues with James Washington who is also in his “prove it” year. Washington fell under the radar in 2020, but was still productive in big moments and adds that depth at the slot position in addition to the outside. The Steelers’ wide receiver corps is perfect for Canada’s “line offense” going into Training Camp.
On offense in 2021, look for frequent personnel changes to keep the defense off balance. In my opinion, this is going to mimic a hockey offense with steady doses of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool on the outside with Smith-Schuster, Washington, and McCloud rotating through the slot. I do not think there will be a “singular guy” at wide receiver, and we’ll see the ball spread out each week. Like we see in hockey, there are going to be favorite “receiver lines” and they are going to make for some exciting football.
Who do you think is going to be involved in the most productive wide receiver line in 2021? Let us know in the comments below!