Film Room: Screen Game A Rare Positive On Offense Sunday


The screen pass is something that often gets unfairly maligned. The argument could be made that the Pittsburgh Steelers at times rely upon it too much, but as the game has evolved, it has largely become an extension of the running game.

Truth be told, some of the Steelers’ best plays on offense actually came courtesy of the screen game. It wasn’t much, but it was on a day in which the offense really didn’t have all that much to offer as a whole, so it certainly is not to be dismissed.

The first successful screen pass came late in the first quarter with the Steelers facing a second and seven from their own 33-yard line. Using 11 personnel, they split out five wide with Le’Veon Bell flanked out wide left, and Jesse James and JuJu Smith-Schuster tucked inside of him on the open side of the field.

Off the snap, the two inside receivers bent to the perimeter, the ball getting to Bell quickly. With the first two defenders manned, the back was able to drag the chase defender ahead for four yards, setting up a third and short—which was converted on a nine-yard screen pass to Bell up the middle.

Late in the first half, with the Steelers facing a third and 10 backed up at their own five-yard line, they ran a screen to Antonio Brown with James and Smith-Schuster as the lead blockers. You will find that Smith-Schuster is going to be in this role a lot as a quasi-tight end. The pair carried out their assignments in aiding Brown, picking up the needed yardage.


Early in the second half, it was Martavis Bryant to the open side of the field, and—again—James and Smith-Schuster tucked inside. Bryant, up at the line, dropped back just a couple of yards to field the ball while his blocks were set up, helping free him for nine yards on first and 10.

Late in the third, the Steelers executed yet another successful screen pass to Brown, this time with James tucked up next to the offensive line, and Smith-Schuster, naturally, in the slot, with the recipient of the pass lined out wide.

Off the snap, James came off the line, with Smith-Schuster releasing his block once the tight end was able to take it over, moving further afield to pick up another defender. The play gained six yards on second and eight.

When a screen pass is executed successfully—and, ideally, with less predictability—it can certainly be an asset within an offensive repertoire. The Steelers don’t always carry it out as effectively as they should be able to, but Sunday’s showing was a positive one.

About the Author

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

    I feel like I remember each of these vividly, since not much else went right.

    Overall, the sense as you watch this offense is that of a group without an identity. There is the errant good play, but overall it does not feel like they know how to score.

    Not that the team couldn’t ‘show up’ and have a strong game. There just aren’t enough signs, like this for the offense, to think that’s a real possibility today.

  • charles

    It is amazing that football wizards still have no understanding of what happened with Jax. Their front 4 whipped Steelers’ front 6 (or 7 depending whether TE stayed in and blocked). That leaves 7 to cover 4 (or 3) recievers. The shocking stat on Ben is not 5 picks, but 4/22 on long balls. Wide reciever screen and misdirection are plays that MIGHT work when being dominated on LOS.
    D line also whipped, which is why 3-4 base defense not a good idea without a truly dominant LB….

  • falconsaftey43

    I agree OL go whipped and was huge part of the offense’s issues. I disagree that DL got whipped. I looked at everyone of their 10+ runs and not once did I think a DL was to blame. All were due to a LB (usually ILB) being in the wrong gap, or poor scheme where the defense was just vastly outnumbered in the direction of the run. Hargrave recorded 10 tackles for an average of 1.8 ypc, all of which registered as run stops. The DL was not the problem.

  • charles

    Not saying Dline is to blame. Jax moved C Campbell around. He is their dominant man. Steelers use LB as 4th DL. No one is showing any accumen. VW and Dupree very disappointing so far this year. The point is that 3-4 works if you have someone who can dominate as JH used to do….

  • falconsaftey43

    Well you said DL got whipped, so I took that as what you meant. If you’re actually talking about the LB play, then yes, they were a big reason for the run D struggles. Most of the time it was Shazier/Williams not filling the correct gap. Watt/Dupree were good most the time, although Dupree lost contain once when he was lined up as the stacked LB off the ball.

    Almost never was it a case of the LBs being physically outmatched. Usually just assignment stuff. Which you don’t like seeing this late in the season, but thankfully is something they should be able to get fixed.

  • capehouse

    Jesse James looking good blocking out in space.

  • charles

    In a 3-4 one of DL is a LB. But, really, that is just semantic. If you look at front 7 then that group has been a failure. As you say not filling gaps, etc. That is the reality check on the Buttler. He has put out surprisingly incompetent D’s since the first game he was in charge against NE. He and LeBonehead took credit for D’s play of JH and Aaron Smith that was truly exceptional. Remember those 2 clowns cut James not once but twice…

  • MC

    My question is why haven’t they done the fake screen yet? I recall the last few years they’ve gotten big gains out of the TE by having them run out there pretending to block and then releasing. I’ll be looking for them to do that this weekend with how many normal screens they’ve put on tape this game.