Steelers Screen Game

When you think about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense, you think about the dynamic weapons that they have. In particular, you think about their ‘triplets’: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Those three offensive players are each one of the best at their respective positions in the NFL. They make the offense go.

Le’Veon Bell’s Highlights from week 4. ***If you have any trouble viewing videos, OPEN IN YOUTUBE.***

Le’Veon Bell is a stud running back and is currently ranked 10th in the league in rushing with 817 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. However, he has only gotten into the end zone two times. The Steelers only rank 18th in rushing, so Bell has earned every yard this season. The Steelers’ rushing offense is predicated upon Bell making guys miss. Bell has forced 31 missed tackles this season in the run game. Much like Shady Mccoy, he has dynamic stop and go ability, which allows him to make defenders miss in the open field or in the hole.

He is so dangerous with the ball in his hand that offensive coordinator Todd Haley had to devise ways to get it to him more. One way he does that is by passing him the ball. He is a top five receiving back in the NFL, and Haley definitely maximizes his abilities.

Over the last month, Bell has been his typical workhorse self. He has averaged 32 touches a game, 110 yards on the ground and another 55 yards receiving.

Putting the ball in the hands of a superstar back 32 times a game is sure to lead to good things. In 2016, Bell has been targeted in the passing game 74 times (2nd most), caught 63 passes (2nd most) for 501 yards and 1 TD.

Courtesy of Sportingcharts.com

Bell is dangerous when the Steelers go into their no huddle or two-minute drill. The offense has several down the field threats, so if defenses play vanilla cover 2 zone, Bell will sneak out of the backfield and pick up big chunks of yardage.

The Bills have played a ton of cover 2 lately and it was quite possibly the reason they lost to the Raiders last week. They dropped into coverage too much, gave Carr all day and he picked apart the defense.

Most of Bell’s work receiving is done behind the line of scrimmage. Of his 74 targets, 41 of them are behind the line of scrimmage. For instance, take a look at this swing pass versus the Browns. The Browns appear to be in man coverage against the Steelers’ 3×1 trips bunch formation.

Haley has wide receiver Antonio Brown to the top of the screen, but because the defense showed man coverage, Ben takes advantage of the best matchup: Bell vs. one of the worst coverage linebackers in the NFL (Demario Davis). Watch Bell catch the ball and simultaneously plant against the grain.

Throws behind the line of scrimmage are the kind of plays that the Pittsburgh offense thrives on. Roethlisberger has thrown 17.11% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage so far this season. When you compare it to two of the better screen passing teams/QBs in the league in Tom Brady and Alex Smith, you can clearly see that a lot of Ben’s throws are behind the line of scrimmage.

This begs to question, why doesn’t Tyrod Taylor have a higher percentage of easy passes behind the line of scrimmage? In 2015, he attempted 12.4% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage and 8.3% of his passing yardage were throws behind the line. When you consider the type of back LeSean McCoy is, why does he only have 39 total targets in the pass game, 20 of which were behind the line of scrimmage? The Bills flat out, DO NOT call enough screens!!

 

Haley loves throwing screens, and why not. He has players at his disposal who are very shifty and elusive. Pittsburgh utilizes screens as an extension of their run game, and they do it really well. What makes them so difficult to defend is that they utilize a multitude of running back, wide receiver, and tight end screens. Whether its to WRs or RBs.

They run wide receiver screens:

Twelve percent of Antonio Brown’s targets are passes behind the line of scrimmage. Check out the wide receiver screen executed on this play. The Steelers motion Brown across the formation. The defense shows zone coverage, so the tight ends now know who they have to block.

Each week Pittsburgh gets him involved early in the first quarter, whether with runs or passes.

Haley loves slip screens. Here’s one with some ‘eye candy’ to stress the defense horizontally.

 

Here is a slip screen to Bell from the Giants game. In this game, Bell was targeted seven times, five of which were passes behind the line of scrimmage. He hauled in four for 52 yards.

Here’s another screen concept called a ‘tunnel screen’. On this play, the Steelers motion Bell wide and run a screen back to the middle of the field for a five-yard gain. Against the Browns, Bell caught 5 out of 6 targets behind the line of scrimmage.

Pittsburgh likes to run a lot of swing passes to their backs. Bell does wonders for an offense. There are very few defenders in the NFL that can bring him down in the open field. Swing passes are even more dangerous if you get some offensive lineman out in front of hin like the Steelers do on this play.

 

Some screens work better against certain coverages, so Haley has to create formations or personnel groupings that will facilitate the screen’s success. Take a look at this screen versus man coverage. Antonio Brown runs a crossing route to pull the corner and catch the linebacker’s attention. The other receivers run their defenders off.

 

In the game against the Cowboys, Haley threw a nice wrinkle into his screen game. Rather than run a swing screen into a defense that runs predominantly cover 2 zone under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, Haley had Bell run a swing then stop. The play puts him on the edge, but at an area where he can avoid the cloud corner. The Michigan State alum caught nine passes on ten targets for 77 yards and 1 TD. Five of those receptions were short passes from Ben to Bell behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Le’Veon Bell is one of the most talented backs that the Bills’ defense will see this year. He has the ability to run with power or quickness. He can make defenders miss in the run game, which he has done as well as any back. Bell is only second to the Arizona Cardinals’ running back David Johnson when it comes to receiving backs. When Le’Veon has the ball in the passing game, he can make guys miss, too. He currently causes the fourth most missed tackles in the NFL when he catches a ball. This doesn’t bode well for a Bills defense that, according to Football Outsiders, misses tackles on 10.3% of their defensive snaps.

The Buffalo defense has its work cut out for them playing against not only creative players but against a coordinator that schemes ways to get them the ball in many different ways.


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