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Steelers Film Room: Scrape Concept Versus The Read Option


By Alex Kozora

Throughout the rest of the offseason, we’ll examine specific plays from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 season. We won’t be focusing so much on individual play, though that inevitably comes with any breakdown, but instead, we will focus on concepts used in the pro game to show not just what happened, but why it happened.

This will be an X’s and O’s series focusing on both sides of the ball. The good and bad of the Steelers of last season.

Breaking down the “scrape” concept from the Steelers’ linebackers and showing multiple ways how it can be effective against the read option.  We’ll take a look at two plays from the 2013 season.

The scrape call is essentially two linebackers exchanging run fill responsibilities. Instead of the outside linebacker being responsible for the edge or “C” gap and the inside linebacker filling the “B”, they trade. Quick picture.

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It’s one way to defend the read option. The read option is about putting the defense in a lose-lose situation. Read the end man on the line (EMOL) and carry/give based on that. In response, defenses would drop the safety into the box. And in response to that,, teams would air the ball out, taking advantage of the single high look. Eternal chess match football creates.

It of course is seen more at the college level but seen enough in the pros that it must be repped in practice to defend in game.

Instead of each defender defending an area, they defend a player. In Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns, Jarvis Jones is responsible for the running back with Vince Williams “scraping” and replacing Jones to the edge, responsible for Wildcat quarterback Marqueis Gray.

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It’s an effective counter because the offense can no longer “read” a defender. The defense is aggressive, attacking, and forcing the offense’s hand.

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The quarterback sees Jones crash hard and keeps the ball but because Williams is scraping, he meets the QB unblocked and makes the tackle after a four yard gain.

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It’s also capable of messing with offensive blocking schemes. Back up to Week 15 versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Not nearly as much of a read element but the Steelers are using the same technique. Jason Worilds crashes and Lawrence Timmons scrapes, replacing him, over the top.

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Bengals are running Power O. Backside guard trapping. Schematically, the Bengals want to crash down with the playside tackle, Andre Smith. Left guard Andrew Whitworth pulls and wants to work through the “C” gap. Jermaine Greshman wants to base and kick out Worilds on the edge.

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Here’s the issue. With Worilds crashing down, Gresham blindly follows since that’s his assignment. He isn’t able to adjust to the scrape, perhaps chipping, passing Worilds off to the guard, and working to Tmmons.

When Whitworth comes through the gap, he winds up doubling Worilds, too. This leaves Timmons unblocked on the scrape.

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With the “C” gap clogged up, running back Giovani Bernard is forced to bounce the run to the outside. Right into Timmons’ arms. And he ain’t going to miss. It’s a miniscule gain of one.

Keep in mind scraping certainly isn’t solely used to defending the read option. It’s just another wrinkle in a defense to keep them guessing. The more looks you can throw at them, the better your chances are on Sunday.

Previous Film Room Sessions
Putting Pressure On Rookies
Facing The 46 Defense
Fake Wide Receiver Screen
The Steve McLendon Myth
Cover 2 Man
The Wildcat
Cover 1 And Forced Throws
Slant Flat In Red Zone
Divide Routes
Zone Blocking Scheme

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  • Axe Skot

    Love these analyses.

  • Jonas

    Nice analysis, thanks !!

    I think a guard who pulls a lot more often could adjust to this situation. Gresham clearly could push Worilds out of the C Gap to the left, even if it’s not the original idea..

  • steeltown

    Looking forward to hopefully getting much more penetration from our front with the newly acquired big youngsters like Tuitt, Thomas and McCullers

  • cencalsteeler

    Thank you for not posting the scrape play against Pryor and the Raiders. That play still haunts me.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This reminds us of how, when you have dominant DE’s, you can blow up a lot of these types of plays in the backfield.

    For the past few years, opposing offensive lineman have been able to handle our DE’s one-on-one in many instances. There’s no need to double them. If our DE’s could beat their man and penetrate, THAT is what demands a double team.

    Imagine if Heyward could shoot past the OG (#65 in this video) (and I believe he’s about ready to make that leap). The same applies to Tuitt (hopefully by next year).

    Our best defense ever was built by 4 dominant defensive linemen. Pressure up front always helps the LB’s and DB’s look better.

  • Alex Kozora

    You’re basically asking for a one gap scheme. Not what the Steelers ask their ends to do. They two gap. Take on the block and hold the point of attack.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    If you watch footage of Aaron Smith (in his prime) you’ll see that he penetrated into the backfield all the time. Bill Bellicheat once called him “unblockable”. That is what CAUSED the double team.

    Offenses have adjusted to that style of 3-4 defense. They don’t hold the double team as much anymore. They chip block then release into a zone scheme to “catch” the incoming LB.

    Why do you think we’ve drafted THREE 1st round “caliber” DE’s in the last 6 years? Because we want them to be able hold the point AND pressure the backfield. We even ask them to shift down to DT in a 4-3 (sub package) to get better penetration.

    When you have red paint you paint the barn red. When you have Tuitt and Heyward you start painting with different colors. I promise you, in the years to come, we will see those two guys in the backfield all the time.

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