PITTSBURGH — The Steelers run a lot of different run schemes in the Matt Canada offense, with a good mix of gap and power run schemes.
Anything from duo to split zone to power to outside zone can fit into the equation. Generally speaking, that is the way the NFL is going right now, too. Even Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, the patented pushers of the outside zone scheme, have adapted to work gap schemes into their offensive schemes.
However, the Steelers have largely been allergic to running wide zone a lot over the past few seasons. It has always been there, but has never been much of a focus. So this year, with the Steelers were seen working on lots of wide zone in practice, a change seems to in the cards. A lot of the lack of usage of it could be due to Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility. It meant the Steelers could create very little from setting up wide zone. In addition, the Steelers offensive line as a whole lacked the athleticism on the interior. With a hobbled Kevin Dotson and Trai Turner, it just might not have been the right fit.
For new offensive line coach Pat Meyer and the staff, though, this could be the year they finally break free from the chains. According to Meyer, the Steelers will run a multitude of schemes, but the specific uptick in wide zone could be very noticeable with what the team could potentially run from here on out.
“We’re working all the schemes right now,” Meyer said. “But yes, we’re working on some more wide zone. We are working on several different schemes that they have done in the past. But we are running wide zone a little bit more. That’s something we’ll see more and get into more when we get into the pads and live contact.”
Wide zone is a run that is all about the outside track. It offers different avenues and lanes for the running back to take care of in a pinch. It is very much a one-cut run, but if a team has a running back with elite lateral quickness that can create in short spaces, they can make outside zone a big part of their scheme. Najee Harris does not look like a traditional wide zone back, but his elite lateral agility will allow this to potentially flourish if the blocking holds up correctly.
The Steelers will also now have a starting quarterback better able to work play-action or other concepts that follow and build from the wide zone run.