According to a recent post by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, teams used “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wideouts) 51.2 percent of the time in 2013 and used three or more receivers on 58.8 percent of plays.
Also according to their data, teams used “11” personnel 45.7 percent of the time in 2012 and 40.4 percent the year before.
“Right now, the most efficient way to play offense in the NFL is to put three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end on the field with your quarterback in the shotgun for a majority of snaps,” Schatz wrote. “Not all of them, you have to switch it up of course, but most of them.”
So where did the Steelers rank last year as far as far their “11” personnel usage? While Schatz doesn’t have those numbers in his article, our own charting project from last season shows that the Steelers used it 58.8 percent of the time.
When you consider that the Steelers offense very rarely used more than three wide receivers on a play in 2013 (14 times), you can see where they meet the 58.8 percent average for the three or more wideouts used with their “11” personal usage alone.
While the Steelers usage of “12” (one running back, two tight ends, two wideouts) and “21” (two running backs, one tight end, two wideouts) personnel in 2013 was below the league average, their use of six offensive linemen on the line was way above average.
Why so much usage of six offensive lineman? For starters, the team was without tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth to start the season. When they finally got Miller on the field, David Johnson was lost for the season. In addition, David Paulson wasn’t the answer as a blocking tight end and Michael Palmer was only slightly better.
We can only imagine and hope that healthy tight ends in 2014 will result in the usage of six offensive linemen on the field for plays will reduce quite a bit and we’ll show you why in a future post.
As far as the Steelers possible usage of “11” personnel in 2014 goes compared to 2013, it’s hard to imagine it fluctuating much. However, if forced to bet, my money would be on it being a tad lower because of the usage of a little more “12” and “21” personnel. Also, keep in mind that the Steelers ran 118 plays last season with 7:30 or less left in the game while trailing by three or more points. Those situations almost always dictate “11” personal be used.
2013 Average Offensive Personnel Groupings Usage Compared To Steelers