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Film Study: Fresh Concepts Propel Steelers Offense

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The Steelers defeated the Eagles on Sunday 38-29 behind an impressive offensive showing. An offensive showing that was nothing like fans have ever seen in Pittsburgh. This was not the usual types of plays that Randy Fichtner would call. The schematics of it all felt fresh, modern, and all across the board, it was effective. So, just how did the Steelers incorporate these modern ideas into their offense on Sunday?

Steelers Call on Matt Canada and Kyle Shanahan Plays in Victory

The Steelers stuck to some of their core concepts throughout the game, but it was the fingerprints of Matt Canada that were felt throughout the entire game. Not only that, but in a copycat league, the Steelers did a fantastic job of pulling some of Kyle Shanahan concepts to spice up the offense. In the early going of the season, the Steelers did have some troubles figuring out how to utilize motion and window dressing effectively. However, against the Eagles, the script was flipped upside down. It was the best schematic showing the Steelers have had all season.

The reverse to Ray-Ray McCloud is a play the 49ers ran two weeks back against the Giants. The point of it is to fake counter trey and pull the linebackers to the opposite side of the field. Then, the receiver has an entire legion of blockers to follow for a huge gain. In Shanahan terms, this is known as F-Windback. That would describe the action of the tight end here. It is so hard to defend because it goes completely against everything linebackers are taught when they read their keys. The running back footwork is that of counter and so is the lineman blocks. They will key in on the pull every time and get sucked away.

For the Steelers, McDonald acts like he is going to pull, but instead works back the other way. The Steelers play works incredibly well, as just about the entire Eagles defense bites on the action. With McDonald and Chuks Okorafor leading the way, McCloud hits the hole with his explosiveness and gets a huge gain. This is an even better call by Fichtner given the Steelers’ gameplan against the Texans. The action of pulling guards and the use of counter trey specifically was integral to the win over Houston. Philadelphia is likely looking for that all game, and the Steelers use their own film study against them.

For Pitt fans, this looks all too familiar. The Steelers brought in Canada this offseason to help with motion, but the jet sweeps have been coming in spades as well, including on the goal line. Qadree Henderson ran these to great success in 2016 while at Pitt under Canada, and guys like Chase Claypool have already found success with them this year under the Steelers. The great thing is that Claypool’s speed is just too much here. Running it with an even front to outgap the Eagles allows the Steelers to throw the defense off as to where this ball is going pre-snap as well. They essentially create an extra gap with Trey Edmunds as the lead blocker and with him and Eric Ebron washing their guys out, this is an easy touchdown.

Once jet sweeps start to become a staple of the offense, the jet motion pre-snap is going to start to impact defenses. Teams are beginning to notice that and it opens this right up for the Steelers on this play. Marcus Epps (#22) bites hard on the motion from Claypool and abandons his gap. As a result, the Steelers now have a blocking advantage to the short side of the field. JuJu Smith-Schuster comes down to cut Epps’ backside pursuit angle off as well. It takes the cornerback from Claypool’s side out of the edge contain picture, moves a linebacker, and causes Nate Gerry to come crashing down and blown out of the play as well by Maurkice Pouncey. All in all, this is exactly what made Canada’s offense at Pitt so dangerous and it is working at the NFL level too.

Last but not least, the Steelers take this play from Mike Leach of all people. Yes, the Steelers incorporated an air raid concept into the playbook. Leach in the past has liked to use this and it is often called a Diamond Bubble Screen. The formation itself allows lots of simple air raid concepts to run out of it, but James Conner, Trey Edmunds and Vance McDonald do a great job of blocking this to allow Claypool to get into the end zone. It is a simple design and the Steelers blockers come through on a creative touchdown call near the end zone.

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