Last season, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley surprised those not in the know when he broke out the wildcat formation with running back Le’Veon Bell a few games into his career, after he felt comfortable recovering from injury.
While they only ran it at most a handful of times per game, it was an interesting wrinkle that, if employed effectively, could be a good weapon for them this season.
The formation slowly died down as the season progressed, and in fact I can’t recall off hand if it was used at all in the last few games.
Yet I can’t help but think of the potential dimension the wildcat would bring to the offense with Dri Archer motioning behind the play as a running option.
After all, it’s already been accepted that the Steelers will be required to manufacture not only touches for Archer, but touches that help to put him in open space. I imagine the wildcat formation could be one of many ways that the team is looking to accomplish that.
Archer made a career out of his versatility in college, both on the ground and through the air, and in the variety of ways the team got the ball in his hands.
He once even threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to his quarterback on a trick play.
In order for this to be successful, there must be a concerted effort to make it work, which at times last season felt like it was lacking. It took a while for Haley to inject some variety into the formations that he used when he went to the wildcat.
Although it never resulted in an explosive play, however, it certainly has the potential to do so. Imagine these plays with Archer filling Antonio Brown’s role. Or perhaps both of them crossing each other in the backfield. Of course, it would also help imagining them if they were blocked more effectively.
In addition to surprise and variety, of course, execution is the other main facet of successfully employing this package, which was inconsistent a year ago.
The offensive line in particular must—and should—perform better, particularly in the open space runs out of the wildcat formation.
With Maurkice Pouncey returning, Mike Munchak installing outside zone techniques, and general development from many of the young offensive linemen, this shouldn’t be a major obstacle.
If the offense is able to put all these pieces together, the wildcat could be one of just several ways of getting their new weapon in position to make big plays, because Archer’s 4.2 speed would absolutely command attention, regardless of whether or not he’s actually handed the ball.