The Pittsburgh Steelers have found their rhythm on the ground over the last two weeks. They have combined for 371 yards on the ground and raised the bar in Week Ten with a 205 rushing-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers. If you take a step back and try to diagnose the reasons for the turnaround, it is easy to point to starting Broderick Jones at right tackle as a key component. It has been, but in reality, an explosive run takes a whole team.
Former NFL offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley, who was with the Steelers for a brief stint, joined the Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday afternoon for his weekly segment In The Trenches and highlighted one of the Steelers’ successful running plays on Sunday.
The play they analyzed was a Najee Harris 24-yard run on 2nd and 7 towards the beginning of the fourth quarter. Harris is now tied for the fifth most runs of 20-plus yards in the NFL. On this play, several key blocks had to be made to create the massive running lane that Harris found.
“Let’s start with Allen Robinson. He’s going to skinny through right here up to the safety,” Shipley said.
Robinson had the outside linebacker aligned overtop him in the slot with a corner shaded to his outside. In order to get up to the safety he had to squeeze through both defenders to get to the second level. He never quite finds the safety and ends up helping Cole seal off a linebacker, but the box safety takes himself out of the play.
Then he talks about the efforts of RG James Daniels and C Mason Cole.
“First of all, it is hard as hell to reach a nose guard in the league…we get the right guard back underneath. He’s going to full reach here.”
Daniels had to reach all the way to the nose guard who was aligned inside shade of the left guard. That is quite a bit of distance he needed to cover to make the block, but Cole got just enough of him to make it possible. Cole was then freed up to climb to the second level and seal off the inside linebacker.
“Now check this out, we got a rookie doing a vet move here…I know the Pittsburgh guys are talking about him. This guy (Broderick Jones) needs to be talked about a lot more because he has made a huge difference since he’s come in the starting lineup.”
Jones was away from the designed hole for this run, but his man is aligned inside shade and could have had a chance at limiting the gain if he crashed down hard enough. Jones bats down both of the defender’s hands with a snatch-and-trap move to plant him on his face and take him out of the play.
Shipley doesn’t talk about the play-side linemen, but LG Isaac Seumalo and LT Dan Moore Jr. also do a great job of kicking out their defenders to widen the hole.
If any of these blocks were not executed, the 24-yard gain could have been prevented, or at least limited to much fewer yards. This drive went on to stall out, but Harris’s big pickup helped Pressley Harvin III pin the Packers at their own nine yard line with a punt. In a close game, the field position battle is significant. So while some of the improvements made in the run game in recent weeks can be attributed to personnel changes, it also comes down to execution. Just like Mike Tomlin, Matt Canada, and a number of players have said all along.
Here is the play from all three angles provided in the coaches film: