Mike Munchak Speaks About Outside Zone Blocking

New Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak spoke earlier with the team’s website about why he chose to sign with Pittsburgh. Now he’s speaking about the outside zone blocking scheme and how it affects the running back.

The Steelers had hoped to introduce more of the outside zone last season with Jack Bicknell Jr., but with a rookie running back dealing with early season injuries and losing Maurkice Pouncey early, there were too many obstacles for them to ever really develop the scheme and integrate it into the offense.

Now it’s Munchak’s turn to try to get the outside zone off the ground, and here is how he described the scheme: “Zone is pretty much what it seems like: you block the man in your zone”.

They’ve run a lot of the inside zone plays here, meaning more of the inside-the-tackles zone. The outside zone obviously is more targeted at the tackle-tight end area. It allows the offensive line to come off the ball a little bit aggressively. We’re not catching, we’re not being soft; we’re being physical. You come off at the same angle the back is coming off…and you’re working together, you’re working the combination blocks…you’re always working with someone blocking your area.

It’s not very hard to do; just like anything it’s repetition. It gives the back a three way go. He’s going to read a certain block and he’s either going to bounce that ball outside or he’s going to take it back inside, so he has a way of making us look good real quickly once the running back gets used to the schemes we’re running. There’s a lot of ways you can play around with the back side and change the blocking schemes to give the defense something to think about constantly. It fits in greatly with the play action.

Munchak didn’t sound overly concerned specifically with what some might perceive as one of his assigned tasks, which is to install the outside zone successfully. Le’Veon Bell was drafted in part with the idea in mind that he could succeed in that scheme.

I think more is made out of it than it needs to be. I think they just haven’t called it as much in the huddle…it’ll be part of our offense this year, along with what they do very well, and have been doing: the gap schemes, the draw schemes. They’re all going to be there, so you’re very capable of doing those things and doing them well.

Asked about what it does for the running back and how it helps the run game get going, Munchak had the follow to say about the scheme and about Bell specifically:

It stretches the defense. They’re not sure exactly where he’s going to cut. Watching [Bell] run the inside zone and some of the runs they’ve run, I can [see] he has very good vision, he has a good feel for the game, and it’s just a matter of him getting more reps at it.

It just spreads [the defense]; it gets everyone moving. It gets the linebackers to move more lateral, so when you’re moving lateral they can’t be right. If they decide to jump outside, he can cut back inside, so it gives him the chance to set blocks up. I think that’s something with the backs they have here, it’s something that they both do very well, so I think it’s going to be a nice complement to some of the things we’re doing.

Before closing, he went on to emphasize again that the outside zone is just adding a new flavor to the pot, and won’t necessarily be the featured spice. It’s undetermined as of now, because Munchak and the offense still have a lot to learn about what they’re capable of running.

You’re going to see us implement other things also to take advantage of once I learn some of the attributes and skills our o-line men have and running back has. It’s more about us fitting what they’re good at; it’s not coming in here and saying here is how we’re going to do it, here’s how I did it at Tennessee, or here’s what I think we need to do. It’s more or less what do these five offensive linemen, what does our tight end, what does our back do best, and then we fit the system to that.

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