Steelers Confuse Formation Debates In Latest Draft


The Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley sure loves his Jumbo.

And I’m not talking about the African elephant superstar from the 1800’s.

Since the former Kansas City Chief head coach came to Pittsburgh, we’ve witnessed a dramatic shift away from three and four wide receiver sets to the two-TE Jumbo sets.

Haley loves his big run packages even before the team employed superstar running back Le’Veon Bell. It’s why they have around TE Matt Spaeth – a blocking specialist who is targeted very little in the passing game and FB – Will Johnson – a TE hybrid who rarely lines up in the traditional fullback position compared to the time he spends lined up next to another TE.

The offense has even gone as far as bringing in Mike Adams at times to line up as an ‘eligible’ receiver just so they can get extra beef on the line.

When this set is out on the field, it is nothing short of yelling to the other side of the field that you are about to run the football. To keep the defense ‘honest’ and not overcommit? Haley sends Miller on a 1 yard crossing route, Spaeth on a five yard curl, and Will Johnson on a wheel route.

It’s kind of a joke to watch at times.

Even if the formation is something slightly different – say a 13 formation where there’s a two-TE set with one RB and one WR – the offense is not making any offensive attempts to stretch the field.

With this in mind, the Jesse James pick makes total sense. James, who is a younger and more physical Matt Spaeth, joins the ranks of the already four TE’s on the roster.

James is not a field stretching pass catching TE joker like veteran Heath Miller. It’s clear his selection is to challenge Spaeth and the others. That’s not to say the coaches won’t try to use him down the field, but it is not in his list of strengths.

So it would seem that Haley is committed to continue utilizing the bigger packages over multi-receiver sets.

And, that’s why that selection is so confusing.

Just two picks earlier in Round 3, the Steelers selected WR Sammie Coates. Coates has the speed and size to stretch the field. He’s been directly compared to second year man Martavis Bryant.

So when does Sammie Coates get on the field when the Steelers use those single or zero WR sets?

It was discussed earlier on City of Champions Radio, when Matt Gajtka and I were going over the draft picks. There’s no way that Coates is taking snaps away from Brown or Bryant. He could directly challenge Wheaton, but unless he can prove he actually has a set of hands (a substantial problem with Coates) while in training camp, he won’t be taking snaps away from Wheaton.

Nov 29, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers wide receiver Sammie Coates (18) catches a second quarter touchdown pass Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

How about kick and punt returns with that speed? Remember – hands?

The only way Coates is on the field regularly is if the offense uses four wide sets – something used sparingly throughout 2014. Perhaps that was due to having Darrius Heyward-Bey as #4 on the depth chart. Maybe we’ll see more of that as the season progresses.

It’s a bit confusing right now what this offense will look like, and it may look different by Week 4 after Le’Veon Bell’s suspension is served. The first three weeks could see an extensive use of multi-WR sets to help stretch the field with Bell on the sidelines. Once he’s back, the offense could go back to the bigger packages.

Ahhhh the joys of speculation. All will be revealed as we enter camp and the season begins. Can that just start… say tomorrow?

Next: Third Times A Charm For Bud Dupree?

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