Thanks to several player interviews, and great reporting by the Pittsburgh media during the first week of OTA\'s, we are starting to see certain elements of what the new Rosseta Stone offense that Todd Haley is implementing come into better focus. Along with that we have a much better grasp of what the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line will look like in addition. It is not like Haley is reinventing the wheel here, but below are several things I think we can look forward to after digesting several player comments and grasping the personnel on the roster.
Lots Of Power - 22-Double, 14-Straight, 34-Counter Pike and all of the old school power running plays we have seen for eons as Steelers fans are not going anywhere with Haley at the helm. With Willie Colon and David DeCastro presumable at the left and right guard spots respectively, you can bet both will be on the move quite a bit along with Maurkice Pouncey. Sure the verbiage might be different, but many of the basics in the running game throughout the NFL will never go away, especially if you have the personnel up front to block it.
More Pulling With Balance – This plays into the power concepts above. Colon has said look for both guards to be pulling this year and there is no reason not to believe him. The Steelers have predominantly been a right handed team over the years with Alan Faneca and Chris Kemoeatu being the primary pull guards from the left side. DeCastro is well versed pulling right to left and we should see much more balance with a lot of counter trapping to the left this year.
Run First – At least through the first four games the new offense will likely rely heavily on the run, especially on early downs as the line starts to gel. Give any lineman a choice of run blocking or pass blocking and he will tell you he wants to run block. Until the verbiage is mastered and Ben Roethlisberger is comfortable with his reads, check downs and where players should be on the field, this should be a run first offense, and that goes for the red zone as well, if you believe the comments made recently by Pouncey. Gradually this offense should shift to where it will be hard to tell if they are run or pass first by mid season.
Fullback/H-back Usage – We should see less two and three tight end sets on the line this year and more use of the fullback/h-back or move tight end if you will. The only accomplished blocking tight end on the roster is Heath Miller, and I suspect he will be allowed to release more than usual this year. David Johnson and Will Johnson are both attending the running back meetings and not the tight end meetings now. It looks good that one of them will stick. Haley won\'t nail the tight end to the ground most of the time this season, so expect quite a bit of tight end movement.
A Little Pony – While I do not think it will be used extensively, I suspect we will see some Pony, or Rocket groupings featuring two backs with Baron Batch or Chris Rainey in the backfield along with Isaac Redman. The possibilities with 20, 21 and even 22 personnel groupings are endless when you couple a power back like Redman with elusive backs like either Rainey or Batch. I can count on two hands how many times we have seen the pony backfield the last two seasons, even though Bruce Arians teased that it was always a possibility that he would use it.
Play Action – Roethlisberger has shown over the years how accurate of a passer he is when using play action and we have heard that it will be used more this season from more than one player in their talks with the media. If the ground game is established early on in games, play action is like having one extra player on the field. It can freeze everything and allow for some great one-on-one match-ups on the outside in addition.
Throwing To Backs More – This is another aspect of the Haley offense that more than one player has hinted to recently with Redman being the latest to talk about it. He, Rainey and Batch are all more than capable pass receivers and I fully expect Roethlisberger to check down to his backs more than he ever has in the past this season in an effort to take less hits.
Pocket Ben – Roethlisberger has hinted at this himself already. He will be asked to stay in the pocket more and not rely so much on extending the play like he has in the past. Look for him to make much quicker reads and get rid of the ball to his check-down this season. He will still take his shots down the field, but most of what he will do will rely on short deliberate routes that consist of rubs, comebacks, crosses and quick slants in an effort to get the ball to a receiver quickly.
Up-Tempo & Hurry-Up – While I do not expect it early on in the season, the up-tempo and hurry-up offense should get used more as the season wears on in an effort to catch defenses with the wrong personnel on the field. Roethlisberger has been wanting more of this for years, but he will have to earn the opportunity to use it with Haley by fully understanding the offense, and more importantly, show that he is able to communicate it quickly to his young offense, who also must have a good grasp as well. A younger and more athletic line should allow for more of this as well and it was a major reason Arians gave for not using that much the last few seasons.
There you go and just that simple, right? While it certainly looks simple on paper, executing it on the field will be a different story. Route trees and running plays do not change, but the personnel used to carry them out and the manner in which they are carried out do. Haley is known for building his offenses in the past around his personnel. He also has been known to use a lot more different personnel groupings than say Arians did. Every offensive coordinator will tell you they want to be as balanced as possible, but each and every game presents a different challenge. It is a good thing that there is not a lockout this year as it would be horrible to have to cram all of this new verbiage and multiple looks into just a training camp. That is what OTA sessions and mini-camp is for and where teams who change coordinators or systems benefit the most.
I am almost done compiling some stats and personnel groupings from the time Haley spent with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals and hope to be able to share those with you soon to help give us all a little better idea of what to expect out of the Rosetta Stone offense.