Breaking Down The Fake Bubble Screen Play Against The Redskins

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.

Heath Miller Fake Bubble Screen Redskins

Fake Bubble Screen Redskins Steelers

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.

  • Matt Anderson

    I loved seeing this. You now the Redskins gameplanned for the bubble screen all week because of how much we used it so far this season. Then Haley goes and the very first time showing the look of the bubble screen fakes it and sends it to Heath. Excellent call.

  • Dale

    Maybe there’s someone that I’m not seeing out of screen, but it looks like Sanders would have had a TD had the ball gone to him. Still a great play.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    If he truly would have been wide open, and it looks like he would have at least been running into space, you can be the coaches just added another twist to the play…or will by tomorrow.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    It wasn’t the bubble screen that I hated, it was the predictability of the play which bothered me, and the Steelers unwillingness to ever check out of the play. In the playoffs, the play-by-play guy called it when he saw the formation. Now he may have done film work to prep, but I am sure not on the level the Denver coaches did. If he saw it, don’t you think they did. Yeah, they did as Ben almost through a pick 6 about 10 yards out from our endzone. That would have been a highlight reel INT return for sure. The only change in the formation that I saw from BA was who was the target guy. In this case, TH is lining guys up all over the place and still running it.

  • WilliamSekinger

    I’m with you on this. It’s not the call itself but the predictability when Arians called it, or more specifically when Ben would check down to it. Another thing that bothered me greatly about the play was the blocking didn’t seen to exist at all. This year when the bubble screen is called, it is getting blocked very very well. No more throw it out there and hope the receiver can make the first 2-3 guys miss.

  • Vic

    Best part of the game was the remake vintage game highlights with the swing music in the background. I thought it was funny

  • Guest

    THe bubble screen wasn’t the issue

  • opie1280

    The Bubble Screen wasn’t the issue. It was the timing/predictability, design, execution and personnel that was used when Arians was running them. Hines Ward should’ve been no where near any sort of bubble screen and there were defenders left unblocked in Arians system.

  • Bill Eltringham

    Ben missed this throw a couple weeks ago to Heath on the sideline. Glad to see it worked this time.

  • Ahmad

    I don’t think the Steeler Nation hated the bubble screen personally. We just hated how predictable it became, especially because the Steelers used it frequently to get Hines Ward to 1000 catches. This year it has become less predictable and Haley has even added in a wrinkle to it. Expect more of these wrinkles in the future.