Mike Munchak Says It’s More Effective To Throw Than Run Near The Goal Line

There’s a statement I didn’t expect an offensive line coach to make. But speaking with reporters during the off week, Mike Munchak explained why the Pittsburgh Steelers have thrown as much as they have near the goal line.

“Everyone gets big on big and it’s not as easy as you think,” Munchak said when asked about running the ball on the one yard line. “Everyone wants to prove they can run it in from a yard out and it’s usually easier to pass it in from a yard out. I still think you have people going from goal line formation and throwing the ball more than they [run] it. I think the success rate is much higher throwing it than running it.”

Despite his comments, when the Steelers have had the ball on the one, they’ve run it all three times (for three touchdowns). And frankly, Munchak’s remarks about throwing it more than passing it on the one aren’t exactly correct either.

According to Pro Football Reference’s Play Finder, there have been 153 one-yard line snaps this season. 106 of those, 69%, have been runs. And there isn’t more success throwing the football either. Running the ball has a TD rate of 64.1% (68 of 106) while throwing it is only a TD 60.9% of the time (28 of 46).

So I’m not sure where Munchak is getting the numbers from though intuitively, the ideas make some level of sense. It is hard to run the football and teams are opting to spread things out to either win matchups at receiver or lighten the box to make running it that much easier.

No matter how the team or the fanbase views it, the bottom line is that the Steelers do have to perform better in goal-to-go situations. Their red zone offense is dreadful, 31st in the league at 41.4%. Compare that to last year, where they were decidedly average at 54.2%. With this level of talent offensively, and their ability to get the ball into the red zone, those numbers should be nowhere near as low as the reality.

And even if the Steelers think throwing it is a more viable option, when they run it, seeing some more of Roosevelt Nix sure isn’t going to hurt.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • NinjaMountie

    I have never had too much of a problem with passing in that situation. I have a problem with lining up empty like we do. I have a problem, though a lesser one, with running from the shotgun at the goal line as these plays are slower to develop and give the RB less options.
    You at least need to make them believe you could run it.

  • PaeperCup

    the Steelers just don’t have great short yardage plays in their playbook. The JuJu shovel is nice, but I haven’t seen anything else that has gotten our targets open.

  • PaeperCup

    Exactly, the whole basis for Munchaks comments is that the run is less effective because the defense clogs up the middle anticipating the run. Well an empty backfield completely negates that advantage.

  • Running from the shotgun when the defense knows it’s a run or highly expect one strikes me as crazy…or at least very likely to fail. We see it again and again. Even powerful RBs get stuffed for no gain or significant losses. The plays take too long to develop and give the RB zero forward momentum before trying to elude defenders or break tackles against front-seven defenders coming at full tilt. PSU’s Barkley trying to run against MSU and OSU was a perfect example. Usually, in my opinion, it’s better in most ‘one yard’ situations to take the ball under center, turn and hand off to a moving back who’s aiming with focused power at a specific point along the offensive line.

    Btw, did you see the Lions run wide to score from the run against the Pack last night? Amazing! I thought someone had passed a law or something against running sweeps with a lead blocker on the goal line. At first I wondered if I’d hit a time warp back to the seventies or something. LOL!

  • Hagen Rinde

    nothing to add with my bad english. Just from fhe looks, we need some big TE soon!

  • Orlysteel

    Execution is the solution.

  • LucasY59

    If Munchak says it I will believe it, but I still think with Bell as good of a RB as he is there should be a few run attempts instead of passes

  • dennisdoubleday

    thanks for checking that out. It looked suspect when I saw it. Further, there is a difference between throwing off play action with 1 or 2 to go and throwing from empty set. I will bet dollars to donuts that the empty set is less effective. It just makes no sense to let the D know ahead of time that you are by God not running it.

  • Chad Sanborn

    Hmmm I wonder why our offense has struggled this year… hmm

  • Wayde Philpot

    It seems like it wouod be fairly easy to score from 1yd out running esp if you have 3 downs to get into the endzone. A lot of it has to do with how the O-line plays (if they can create lanes or push the defense back). Coincidentally, the Steelers goal line defense is stellar. Youre not going to pound the rock up the middle against that defense…..Generally, its prob best to line up in a formation that suggests one thing, but you end up doing something different or a formation that just gives you options which would cause the defense to hesitate. I personally dont like the idea of throwing near the goal line unless its a short pass to the outside.

  • falconsaftey43

    Two points. Empty is not the same as spread. Steelers have had zero goaline snaps without someone in the backfield with the QB. Pretty confident in that, but let me know if you have an example of empty.

    Their issue is redzone not goalline. They have scored a TD on 8 of 16 plays inside the 5. That 50% rate is 6th best.

  • falconsaftey43

    Can you name 1 instance the Steelers have gone empty in a goalline situation?

  • WeWantDaTruth

    I don’t mind doing some play action passing near the goal line every now and then, but you’ve got to be able to run the ball in those situations as well. I still scratch my head, asking “what were the Seahawks doing?” when they threw that INT against New England in the Super Bowl.

  • Mutatedgenome

    Perhaps it is if you can do it. They can’t do it, so run more often. Duh!

  • heath miller

    interesting to hear one of the best OL coaches in FB say .. he “thinks” this… he “thinks” that …. wait a second .. dont they have stats that he can check .. i be the SD guys could check and have those stats by tomorrow morning? odd dont ya think he has to “think” and not “know” the % ? HEATHHHHhhhh

  • heath miller

    without a doubt .. i do tooo

  • heath miller

    to me .. if u cant score on 3 running tries from the 1 line … you dont deserve to win .. plain and simple

  • Darth Blount 47

    Stopping a 6’5, “240” pound QB from the 1 yard line, who puts himself right under Center, and who then can choose to go off of either guard, and also up and in, 4 times in a row if necessary, is almost impossible. Running it from a traditional formation, allows RB’s to get stuffed backwards and lose 3-4 yards. Throwing the ball on anything other than the quickest of throws (thereby eliminating many route possibilities) has the danger of getting the QB sacked, and losing any number of yards. But doing a “QB Plow,” 4 times, with someone of Ben’s size, behind a talented O-Line, has to yield an incredible percentage. Is there risk for injury? Sure, just like on any play. But I think teams get into a habit of out-thinking themselves, routinely. Often, not being able to run a single play, 4 straight times. There is almost something taboo about doing that. But I prefer the stubborn approach. And also the: “My willpower and strength is greater than yours,” type of stance. Admittedly, teams aren’t at the 1-yard line with a 1st down, often enough to have this be a huge deal. But enough to where, I’d like to see more “Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object,” displays.

  • Doug Andrews

    Along with more of Rosie Nix

  • PaeperCup

    Ugh, even the foreigners know what’s up!!

  • Reginald Pippin

    There’s validity to what Munchak is saying and he would know, he was on the o-line for the very good (Until the playoffs) Houston Oiler teams when they were lighting most of the teams up with the Run and Shoot.

    Besides that, everyone on defense expects the Run up the middle and it’s even more difficult to run outside, because the chances of losing multiple yards is very high.

  • AndyR34

    I’m stubbornly ‘old school’ myself.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    The percentage difference in successful runs vs. successful throws is negligible. This is especially true when you consider the difference in attempts (106 vs. 48). Regardless of the stats, I think it’s easy to call a run from the 1-yard line and feel good about it. I think it’s a lot different to call a run on first and goal from the 6. Everything is bunched up. The defensive line is in attack mode. The safeties are in better position to help against the run. And a 1-yard gain from that field position is not considered a successful play. I think that’s the message that coach was trying to convey.

  • pittfan

    There are goaline defenders that get switched in, we have McCullers for example. There are no goaline Olines
    I think it’s about matchups

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    See Brady New England doing exactly that. Masters the QB plow.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    The Killer Bs + JuJu, top Oline that includes DeCastro and Pouncey, an offense contributed to by two former head coaches, ie HOF Munchak…is only better than ONE team in the entire league (31st RZ ranking)!!?? 40% sucess rate, with all these weapons??!! Definitely not postseason worthy let alone Super Bowl worthy.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    agreed i believe that it’s all about personell formations and scheme and just having your oline impose their will

  • SilverSteel

    OMG that’s funny 😂

  • SilverSteel

    Nice post and agree. Why have the best O line if you can’t smack someone in the mouth on the 1? We do and we should!

  • John Phillips

    Tow that Tomlin line.

  • John Phillips

    And someone will get wise to that.

  • John Phillips

    Belicheat put in his 2 big guys up front.
    Ex-Cheatriot thought he’d outsmart him.
    Then the refacheats didn’t call defensive holding.

  • DirtDawg1964

    A key to remember, for all of us, is one-third of the time it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re not scoring. Sometimes the wrong play will be called. Sometimes your offence will not execute as well as it should. And sometimes the opposing defence will simply execute better.

    This game is easy on Madden. It’s not easy in real life. If you haven’t played the game you don’t understand how hard moving one yard is.

  • treeher

    Your last sentence is the key one. Depends on who’s running the ball. When we had the Bus, he got it every time. You can pound it in with a 250 pound battering ram.

  • falconsaftey43

    Bell has actually been a better goalline back so far in his career. Bettis scored a TD on 48.5% (49 TDs) of carries inside the 3 yardline. Bell has scored on 60.7% of those carries (17 TDs).

  • treeher

    Was not disparaging Bell. Just pointing out why you should run the ball from the 1 yard line – most of the time.

  • Alan Tman

    Every offensive coach has spent the bye building a wall around Big Ben. They are passing trying to get Bens numbers back to respectable. The rest thing is unbelievable when your offense is so out of whack. One thing for sure, Tom Brady is not resting.