The hiring of Jack Bicknell Jr. by the Pittsburgh Steelers Tuesday as their new offensive line coach means that we can probably expect to see a scheme slanted more towards zone blocking in 2013.
The Steelers primarily used a man/power scheme the last several years under the tutelage of Sean Kugler, who left to become the head coach of UTEP following the season, and that included a lot of straight ahead man on man and double teams with the occasional pull on the trap and counter.
While Bicknell is versed a little in the man scheme, he is better known for his affection for the zone scheme, which he ran a lot dating back to his time spent time at Boston College when he was their offensive line coach.
The zone scheme requires athletic lineman that can get off the ball quickly and out into space, and it creates running lanes with defensive players being forced to react on the move. The zone scheme is also less rules based than the power scheme and instead it focuses a lot more on technique. It is designed to open up lanes for a running back to choose from as opposed to being one that is focused on a specific hole or cutback.
The Steelers have drafted four offensive linemen early in their last three drafts in the form of center Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert, David DeCastro and Mike Adams, so the zone scheme should favor their skill sets.
Last season with the Chiefs the Kansas City running game was effective against all four of the AFC North teams last season as they rushed for 214 yards against the Baltimore Ravens , 142 against the Steelers, 113 against the Cincinnati Bengals and 180 against the Cleveland Browns. This certainly did not go unnoticed by head coach Mike Tomlin and he said as much on Tuesday.
“They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North,” said Tomlin, via Steelers.com. “They ran the ball effectively against us when Jamaal Charles had a 100-yard game. That was attractive to me. The plan they were able to put together, the success they were able to have vs. some people we are going to see quite a bit was a selling feature.”
Following the Chiefs game against the Steelers I broke down the stretch zone used by Kansas City in that game and you can see that write up with animated gifs here.