View Full Version : Anatomy of a Play: Steelers Outside Linebacker Overload

01-28-2009, 08:20 PM
Anatomy of a Play: Steelers Outside Linebacker Overload

Posted Jan 28th 2009 3:00 PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed Under: NFL, Super Bowl

Blocking Steelers outside linebackers James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley is a tough job for any offensive tackle, but thanks to a new blitz that Dick LeBeau has dreamed up, sometimes a tackle has to worry about both of them at the same time.

LeBeau is a defensive genius who is always drawing up new looks in an attempt to spread confusion among offensive linemen. And nothing is more confusing than trying to figure out the Steelers outside linebacker overload as the play clock runs down.As a rare changeup in passing situations the Steelers will move Harrison over to Woodley's side, positioning both outside linebackers outside the right tackle. The Steelers traditionally will camouflage the shift by having Harrison begin at his regular spot, then shift to the other side of the formation in the final seconds before the play clock runs down. James Farrior then slides over to Harrison's old spot, and blitzes from the offense's left side.

The play is designed to put the offensive tackles and the running back in blitz pickup in an impossible situation. Woodley loops inside, occupying the tackle, while Harrison gets a free run into the backfield. If the offense leaves a running back in to block, he may pick up Harrison (a mismatch that Harrison will usually win), but on the other side, Farrior also usually gets free as well, as defensive end Brett Keisel, lined up on the left tackle's outside shoulder, can occupy him, giving Farrior a clear shot at the quarterback. Of the five Steelers pass rushers on the play, four of them are coming from outside of the tackles.

Now because of that, the play does leave some vulnerabilities. With Farrior, Woodley and Harrison all lined up outside of the tackles, and only one defensive lineman (usually Aaron Smith) in the middle, Pittsburgh is leaving the middle relatively wide open. To try to cover some of the defense's vulnerability to plays up the middle, LeBeau moves a defensive back (usually Deshea Townsend or Troy Polamalu) up into a deep middle linebacker spot. But it's still a formation that is very vulnerable to a draw or middle screen.

Because of that, it's not a play call LeBeau will go to in situations where an audible to a run is a legitimate option. And the Steelers will try to disguise the shift until the play clock has run down enough to make audibiling to a different play difficult.

But if the Cardinals pay attention, there is another key to watch for. Because of the emergence of Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers like to play more nickel (five defensive backs) than dime (six defensive backs) in passing situations. But the Harrison/Woodley stack only has been called when Pittsburgh goes to its dime coverage, so when Timmons comes out, watch for the Harrison/Woodley stack.

When LeBeau has called the linebacker overload, it has been very effective. LeBeau called it twice against the Ravens, and Pittsburgh got a sack and a hurried throw on those two plays. It also provided a sack in the regular season win against the Cowboys.

It's unlikely that the Steelers will use the OLB stack more than two or three times in the entire Super Bowl, but it's a play that LeBeau will keep in his back pocket to pull out at the most opportune times. And if the Cardinals aren't ready for it, it could very well provide a big play.

01-29-2009, 06:11 AM
After all the Warner/Fitz/Q hype this week I have been getting more and more stressed about watching a huge Steelers blow-out loss.

During the regular season and on paper (which are irrelevant now) Pittsburgh has looked like the much more solid team. But after 8 hours of live player and playbook break-downs it seems like the NFL Network has nearly convinced me the Cardinals will win by at least two touchdowns. I know they have to fill all that television time by over analyzing with ex-player/coach interviews, so they pick the easy, or recent story lines and dissect those to death.

But nearly all those talking hair-dos and bling-dudes have been giving their reasoning why this super power from Arizona will be melting the Steel defense. Heck, Pittsburgh went from “7 point favorites” to “needing a perfect game just to keep up.”

So with all that said… I am very glad to read anything positive about the (apparently over-rated) Steeler defense. This brings back hope.

Go Steelers!

01-29-2009, 07:15 AM
Good read and thanks for sharing Mesa. If we don't blitz a lot on Sunday Harrison and Woodley are gonna have to bring the pressure. I don't care how it gets done, we must pressure Warner. I am sure LeBeau will continue to work his magic in the Super Bowl.