One of the things that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said about new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. following his hiring earlier this year, is that he noticed how well the Kansas City Chiefs ran against the teams in the AFC North last season.
"They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North," said Tomlin about the hiring of Bicknell. "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 versus some people we are going to see quite a bit was a selling feature."
So just how well did Bicknell\'s former employer run against the AFC North in 2012 and what personnel groupings were mostly used on early downs to do so?
Last year against the four teams in the AFC North, all Chiefs players who weren\'t quarterbacks combined to carry the ball 126 times for 612 yards for a 4.86 yards per carry average. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles had three 100 plus yard games and a 5.59 yards per carry average just on his own.
As far as personnel used by the Chiefs as a team last season, they only had three wide receivers on the field on either first or second down with 10 yards or less to go on 242 out of 710 plays (34%). That means on the other 468 plays meeting the same down and distance criteria, there were either two or more tight ends or two running backs/fullbacks on the field. In other words, they didn\'t use the 11 personnel grouping that offensive coordinator Todd Haley liked to use so very much last year.
In case you are curious, the Steelers had three or more wide receivers on the field on 46% of the first or second down plays with 10 or fewer yards to go. To break that down even better, the Chiefs used three or more wide receivers on first down and 10 only 33% of time while the Steelers used three or more wide receivers 46% of the time on first and 10.
So what does all of this above mean? I think we can expect to see a lot of two tight end or one running back, one fullback and one tight personnel groupings out of the Steelers in 2013. Especially early in the season should tight end Heath Miller not be ready to play. Having both Matt Spaeth and David Paulson on the field at the same time will also prevent opposing defenses from being tipped off to a run or pass being as Paulson is a better receiver while Spaeth a better blocker.
Haley has said in the past that he is not a system guy, but instead an offensive coordinator who builds his offense around his best players. Being as one of his key players in 2013 figures to be rookie running back Le\'Veon Bell, I will be surprised if we don\'t see Haley adjust his personnel groupings quite a bit this season in an attempt to achieve the same running success the Chiefs had last year against the Steelers divisional opponents.
Rest assured, we will be charting the games again this season, so it will be easy to see right away if indeed more 12, 21 or 22 personnel groupings are used on early downs this year.