Hidden Play Week 5 vs the Eagles: Optimizing Personnel to Create Mismatches

NFL.com

By: G.Stryker, Twitter @SNStryker and Instagram @SNStryker
SteelerNation.com

 

Games are full of special moments. Most are easy to see and are part of the highlight reel each week. Some moments happen just out of the limelight of the big play, but without their efforts those big plays don’t happen. These hidden plays can be a block, a pressure, a tip, or football IQ creating the impact that is the difference between success and failure.

 

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an offensive coordinator in Randy Fichtner and offensive assistant coach in Matt Canada (quarterbacks) to utilize personnel groupings and pre-snap motion to create confusion and advantages for the offense. I will show you my favorite example from last week’s game.

The game is close at 17-14 in the Steelers’ favor. There is 13:05 left in the 3rd quarter on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 5-yard line. Looking at the alignment pre-snap, Steeler Nation is used to seeing a banana bunch or 3 WR set on the left with a lone receiver to the right. However, this is the 2020 Steelers and your eyes are deceiving you.

Instead of a WR split wide to the right, it is our TE Eric Ebron. Instead of 3 WR’s bunched on the left, it is TE Vance McDonald, RB James Conner, and FB Trey Edmunds. How about that running back lined up to Ben Roethlisber’s right? It’s not a RB, it’s Chase Claypool, the only wide receiver on the field. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this crazy lineup of position players lining up in different positions — all five of them. It makes sense that they were in 22 personnel (2 RB’s, 2 TE’s) since they are close to the goal line, but kudos to this unique alignment.

To create further confusion, Claypool motions left and lines up behind the bunch formation. The middle linebacker slides a step, and the safety comes closer to the bunch, but not close enough.  \The Eagles defense is so confused by this set, they think it is an illegal formation. You can clearly see that both tackles are covered with a TE on the line of scrimmage, so this is clearly not the case. Two defenders are gesticulating wildly for a flag as the ball is snapped.

Claypool admitted in practice that Roethlisberger always throws this ball to Ebron, who is isolated well on a smaller corner. In this instance, Roethlisberger correctly recognizes that there is a blocking advantage of two RB’s and a TE vs a CB, S, and LB, with no 4th defender to make a play. This should be a blocking advantage every time by the larger offensive players up front, so Claypool receives the pass. The safety has no chance of catching the 4.4 speed of Claypool as he runs, untouched, into the endzone for his 3rd touchdown.

Excellent play design by Canada, excellent play call by Fichtner, and excellent recognition by Big Ben to put the ball in the right place for an easy touchdown. For Steeler fans that lament the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs in utilizing new and confusing offensive plays to create mismatches and big plays, rejoice that we finally have the same creativity in our offensive play design.

Watch the play breakdown here:

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