I have been asked a number of times in the past couple days about the possibility of the Steelers going to more of a zone-blocking scheme – something many of the top running teams in the NFL employ.
And while it is a very real possibility, especially when you hear new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. talk about its benefits, it’s not a switch that is made easily.
That’s because, to do so, the Steelers have to make sure they have the type of running back who fits that scheme.
And, right now, they do not.
Oh, if they decide to re-sign Rashard Mendenhall, something that doesn’t seem likely, then the Steelers would have the type of back who is capable of getting to the outside but also has the quickness to cut back against the flow. And that’s what zone-blocking teams do – they get the defense flowing to the boundary to create cutback lanes for their runners.
But it’s probably going to be difficult to re-sign Mendenhall – a player who has twice been suspended in his career by Coach Mike Tomlin because of a commitment to his profession.
And they had that type of back in Chris Rainey, who spent most of last season trying to get outside without much success. There was a reason Rainey, despite his smallish size, was running inside the tackles. That’s because the Steelers could not get their linemen to the outside.
But Rainey is gone, leaving the backfield to Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman – provided the Steelers re-sign them. Both players are restricted free agents.
Dwyer and Redman, though, are not the type of backs who fit a zone-blocking scheme. They are tough, physical runners who run better inside and are more suited to the man-blocking schemes the Steelers employ.
So pay attention to the type of back the Steelers will likely take in the April draft. Or even free agency, though that has never really been their style.
That should tell you what the Steelers plan to do with their offensive line.
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