I have always gotten a kick out of how much abuse an offensive coordinator gets for calling a bubble screen. Whenever anyone would comment negatively on Bruce Arians during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, you can bet that bubble screens were almost always listed as one of their dislikes, despite the overall success the play had, and how it was used to set up other passing plays and help the run.
When Arians was let go and Todd Haley was hired to replace him, many thought the bubble screen had left Pittsburgh for good. Little did they realize that is a play that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger understands the usefulness of and how a team like the Steelers are smart to keep it in their arsenal to use 3 to 4 times a game, just as Arians did.
In the win Sunday over the Washington Redskins we saw the bubble screen used a few times and even a wrinkle off of it that included a pump fake to the outside receiver early in the game that resulted in an explosive gain for tight end Heath Miller.
Let\’s have a look at it in animated GIF form.
The Steelers are in 11 personnel grouping with Emmanuel Sanders lined up in the slot on the strong side, Antonio Brown is out wide on the strong side and running back Jonathan Dwyer is a sidecar to Roethlisberger on the weak-side. The play picks up right after Miller does a half motion to identify if the Redskins are in man or zone coverage.
At the snap you can see Brown fake as if he is headed out into his route and then jump back as if he is the target of the quick screen. Miller also sells the play well as he starts out as if he his going to seal off the inside for Brown to cut back after the catch. Redskins safety Reed Doughty thinks that he has this sniffed out perfectly and breaks towards Brown, who gives one hell of a fake that the ball is in the air and coming his way. Miller allows Doughty to come over the top of him and across his face while cornerback DeAngelo Hall also breaks towards Brown on the outside.
Roethlisberger carries out a great pump fake that freezes everybody, while Miller wheels up the field towards the soft area of the zone that is created by Sanders, who runs a straight go route that requires underneath attention from inside linebacker London Fletcher and over top attention from free safety Madieu Williams. Look at the space that Miller has.
Right tackle Mike Adams and right guard Ramon Foster also execute well on the play. Adams allows outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to come up the field on him, which effectively gets him out of the passing lane, while Foster keeps defensive end Jarvis Jenkins just out of the passing lane.
Plays like this stay in the back of the heads of the defense and helps set up future bubble screens and run plays as a result. It was a great play call and executed perfectly by the Steelers.