Todd Haley Lets The Wildcat Out Of The Bag

By Matthew Marczi

I am not entirely sure what the biggest surprise of the last game was, but it could have been a tie between the performance of Guy Whimper at right tackle and the installation of the Wildcat offense with Le’Veon Bell. Since I will be writing pieces on both, I will conveniently not take sides, but both were surprising and worth taking a closer look at.

For now, we will start by looking at the four plays in which the Pittsburgh Steelers ran the Wildcat this past Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Though they only gained 18 total yards on the four plays, it provided a new look that defenses will have to prepare for for the remainder of the season that could catch a team off-guard.

The Steelers technically ran the Wildcat offense twice, in sets of two plays—maybe to save some tread on ol’ Ben Roethlisberger’s tires, as he hinted later this week that he could get tired running out to the receiver spot. The first set of plays came on the second drive of the game, which culminated in a shovel pass to Heath Miller for a touchdown.

The first play came on second and five from the Ravens’ 44-yard line. Roethlisberger suddenly jogged off to the edge of the offense as the Ravens looked on, perplexed.


Unfortunately, the first attempt was not blocked particularly well, which went for a handoff to receiver Antonio Brown for a three-yard gain. Specifically, Will Johnson and Marcus Gilbert did not block Jameel McClain to satisfaction, who made the primary stop. One could also argue that Fernando Velasco should have picked up Daryl Smith instead of assisting David DeCastro. The next play, fortunately, ended with better results.


The second play was identical pre-snap. Again, Roethlisberger jogged out to the perimeter of the play and Brown came in. Only this time, Bell kept it and the blocking went in the opposite direction. Johnson served as the lead blocker, taking on McClain, as DeCastro pulled to knock Terrell Suggs out of the play. Shockingly, Roethlisberger’s blocking attempt on Jimmy Smith was none too impressive, but Bell picked up six yards and a first down out of it.

The Steelers did not go back to the Wilcat again until the second half, when it came out midway through their first drive.


Once again, the play has the exact same look pre-snap, and again, the Steelers run a different play from the same look. This time it is a run up the gut, right through the B Gap that DeCastro controlled all game long. First, he helped Velasco move Haloti Ngata out of the hole, then he pushed McClain back at the second level. Ngata eventually got the better of Velasco to make the tackle along with Daryl Smith, but only after seven yards. The following play had, again, the same look, of course.


This was the same play that they ran with Bell to the outside with DeCastro and Johnson leading the charge. The only difference is that the Ravens were prepared this time, and Jimmy Smith came up to make the tackle after two yards.

Perhaps Todd Haley should consider not lining Antonio Brown up on the same side as Roethlisberger when he motions in so that after he fakes a handoff he could actually serve as a blocker. That or run away from Roethlisberger’s side of the field. Still, it is a good look to present opposing defenses, and can be effective in small doses, especially if Haley continues to be creative in the plays that he calls from the same personnel package.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • srdan

    One thing is clear in all of the gifs you put up last night. Decastro is a monster.

  • steeltown

    Now that Teams have this film it will serve as another wrinkle they have to prepare for… and as mentioned, they should run to the opposite side more now especially considering most Teams will be half expecting them to run left

  • chris ward

    That second GIF of Bell running the wildcat is fun to watch. Would like to see the Steelers run the wildcat with Bell inside the red zone.

  • WilliamSekinger

    2 – 4 times a game and I’m liking it. No more than that though.

  • srdan

    I agree. Especially at the very beginning of games, or right after half time. Just to give a young defense something to think about.

  • srdan

    And Moye is also another wrinkle. The extra tackle look as well.
    Bell played QB before. It would be fun to see that as a part of the package. Tomlin said to keep the package they would have to add depth to it.

  • treeher

    Bell pass to Roethlisberger … touchdown!

  • dgh57

    Surprise surprise, a new wrinkle in the offense and it’s about time! Just hope they keep running it and hopefully in time add a passing element to the mix. I see teams having to spend time planning for this and less time planning for their base defense!

  • Ahmad

    In the 2nd GIF, Bell could have had more yardage had Ben sustained his block longer. However since his day job is throwing the football instead of blocking, I’m not gonna nitpick.

  • Ahmad

    If they ever throw a pass to Ben he better be wide open. I don’t want him getting hurt running a route. Remember how Ryan Clark blew up RG3 on a deep route last year?

  • cencalsteeler

    Is it me, or does it seem like if Bell would have kept the ball instead of handing it off to Brown, the play would have went for more yards (#1)? It seems like in each gif, the play would have resulted in more yards if the ball was in the hands of the other optioned player, IMO.

  • TheBlitz

    Nice idea but there is a lot more variables to consider.

    For one it could get intercepted if it doesn’t have enough zip or lacks accuracy. Also it exposes Ben who will be out there near the LOS with no protection waiting for a pass to come his way.

    It needs to be a well designed and executed play to work to perfection.

  • treeher

    Really? I did not expect an analysis of this dumb comment …

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Brown’s fakes are terrible. He uses a couple of slow steps then turns to see what’s happening, instead of running hard like he really has the ball.
    In a few weeks, he should do the same thing and he will be left all alone. On the other side Ben will receive a lateral throw, then turn and find Brown deep for an easy touchdown. That’s just 1 of several wrinkles that could be used

  • PA2AK

    welcome to the internet.

  • PA2AK

    I’d rather see Ben go off the field late and give up the wildcat personnel than see him throwing a block. REALLY REALLY don’t want to see him mixing it up out there like that. He looks awful doing it and it is obviously foreign to him.

  • PA2AK

    I think most guys will give him respect if he’s just out there as a distraction. If he goes to catch a ball…everyones going to look for a big shot. I hope they don’t put the decision to throw to him in Bell’s or Brown’s hands…we all know Ben will go after it no matter what. Don’t want to see the result.

  • PA2AK

    likely. I’m not sure it was actually an option play. Looks like it, but they may be designed handoffs or keeps…especially the first time they trot it out. I also think it would go further with bell just based on the fact that Brown doesn’t have the patience or vision to get his blockers set up and attack the proper hole. Give him space and he can move…make him choose a hole…he’ll pick the wrong one.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Like when the Redskins tried to throw a pass to RGIII last year against the Steelers? 😛

  • HopalongCassidy

    I think that if they are going to do this in the future, Ben needs to come off of the field and put a real receiver on the perimeter. Ben is way too slow for anyone to respect him as a receiver. The only thing he could possible do is come back for a toss so he could throw it and that is precisely the one thing the defense would be watching for or have to respect in this set-up, so the chance of it working is a lot less likely. Now, Bell actually throwing the ball to a receiver is another matter provided he is able. I know he played QB is high school so it may be possible.

  • HopalongCassidy

    Bell pass to Roethlisberger…Ben clobbered and knocked out of game. No dice.

  • treeher

    Yeah, guess that’s more likely.

  • Dr. Doom

    But its the threat of him throwing a pass some how. He just needs to get out of the way no blocking.

  • Johnny Loose

    In the 2nd GIF, it looks like Bell could have gained a few more yards had he cut to the inside of Will Johnson and turned up field. But then in the 3rd GIF, I really like the patience he displays in letting the play develop. 2-4 sucks, but I’m really excited about the future of these new-look Steelers.

  • Johnny Loose

    There was no option for Bell. The plays were predetermined.

  • Johnny Loose

    I think he’d be alright on a fade route in the corner of the endzone. Definitely not something to gamble on I agree. But if it worked it would be the GREATEST!!! lmao

  • Johnny Loose

    Yea I remember thinking how stupid it was to throw RGIII to the wolves like that as a rookie against Pittsburgh. That had bad outcome written all over it. I was like, what did you expect??

  • Johnny Loose

    lol right?

  • charles

    Lateral bubble screen to Ben, who then hits Brownie on a fly across the field. Easy td.

  • Sabbie

    I am digging Decastro and Bell.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Except there’s a corner hugging Ben on each of those plays.

  • Shelob9

    I’d like to see Brown as Wildcat QB, with Sanders or Wheaton as motion man. Since Steelers have shown to they are willing to let Brown throw passes D will have to play for pass. Also he showed two weeks ago that he will avoid dumb passes when trick plays go bad making him more trustworthy back there. Could create big running lanes for him.

  • Don

    How about Bell as the motion man?

  • Shelob9

    Sure, but I was thinking of him as a blocker, or going into the Wildcat after putting out the kind of personal package that says pass and brings out a nickel or dime defense. That’s easier to sell if Bell and Jones are not on the field.