View Full Version : Q&A with Ken Whisenhunt

08-22-2006, 06:44 AM
Q&A: Ken Whisenhunt / The Steelers' offensive coordinator makes the calls for QB during games
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Football coaches and players talk about their game plan often, but what really is a game plan? How do coaches arrive at one and how do they choose their plays during the game? Ken Whisenhunt enters his third season as the Steelers' offensive coordinator. He sits in a booth upstairs in the stadium, joined by several other coaches, and calls the plays to the sideline. He talked recently with the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette to explain the procedure:

Q: How many plays do you "script" to start a game on offense?

Whisenhunt: I script about the first 10.

Q: Can you explain that process?

Whisenhunt: I get input from everybody during the course of the week -- the offensive staff and the quarterbacks. I get their top plays in each category -- first two plays of the game, play-action, drop back, third-down plays. And then we talk about it as a coaching staff. I rank the top 10 plays, what we think will be good. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard. It's not locked in for the first 10 plays of the game, it's more of an idea where you're going to go. The first 10 usually always are our first- and second-down plays. Then I'll categorize our third-down plays.

Q: So you have a group of plays you want to use at the outset of a game, but do you start the game with one definite play?

Whisenhunt: Yes. Usually, we predetermine what we want to run the first two plays of the game.

Q: No matter where the ball is?

Whisenhunt: No matter where the ball is. Now, there are certain situations -- if you get a big return into the red zone, you're not going to run one of those plays there or if you're tight on the goal line. We've been pretty good about consistently sticking with those plays.

Q: What's involved in putting together a game plan?

Whisenhunt: Well, the way we do it, which I think is the best way, all the coaches are in the room together. And we go through each section, whether it's first- and second-down runs, first- and second-down passes, third-down passes, play-action passes. In each category, we have a certain number of plays we're going to put into this week's game plan. It's a little bit flexible -- some weeks maybe more, some weeks maybe less. We discuss it and we put it on a big board and we come up with the plays. And that's what consists of our game plan.

Q: Do you choose certain plays out of your playbook for each situation to put into your game plan for that week?

Whisenhunt: The way we do it, we categorize plays -- third down and 2-5 yards, third down and 6-8, third down, 9-plus. Within that subcategory, we'll rank them how we like them. Then on Friday, I'll put them in situations for different downs and distances on different parts of the field. All the coaches have input on what they like.

Q: How do you pick one play to call?

Whisenhunt: If it's, for example, second and 8 and we have a category second and 7-10, we'll have plays listed for that and you just go down to the play you like. It may not be your first play ranked, because they may be doing something differently and you may have to go to your third or fourth play.

Q: What happens when your opponent's defense comes out in a different alignment in certain situations?

Whisenhunt: Usually, you don't get what you prepare for. A lot of times you get something different and you have to adjust. We have very good coaches who do a very good job of sideline adjustments. We're flexible, our offensive line is flexible, our players are flexible. Training camp allows you to do that.

Q: When you call the play upstairs, who do you relay it to?

Whisenhunt: Mark Whipple, [the quarterbacks coach] who gives it to the quarterback. I can't go straight from the booth to the quarterback.

Q: Who else on the staff hears you calling the play?

Whisenhunt: Everybody.

Q: Does Bill Cowher ever step in and reject one of your calls?

Whisenhunt: Oh, he has veto power and he has input. He has a very good feel for the game. In fact, some of the games where he's had input on a call during the course of the game has worked very well.

Q: Do you permit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to audible to another play at the line of scrimmage?

Whisenhunt: In certain situations, yes. In certain ones, no. In certain ones we try to take care of that so we don't put too much on him. That will expand as he becomes more comfortable with the offense and that's what's occurring. That's what we've seen in the coaching sessions and that's what we've seen here in training camp.


08-22-2006, 07:30 AM
Read this this morning.....

I gotta tell ya 83...lol...I'm gonna stop going to the Trib and P-G pages and just start coming here...its easier!!! :bouncy: :bouncy:

Gotta love our coordinators.....as every day goes by..I get a stronger feeling that this team is poised for another serious title run...:cool: :cool:

08-22-2006, 08:05 AM
Good read, 83 (as always!). The Steelers do have outstanding coordinators and coaches - yet another reason why we are so blessed as fans. Cowher knows how to pick 'em and how to keep 'em. Wiz is by far one of the most knowledgeable and effective OCs in the NFL and I'm so looking forward to seeing what he has in his bag of tricks this season. :cool:

08-22-2006, 08:12 AM
GREAT READ!!! Was great to speak with him the other night AND the World CHampions Rings are AWESOME....He had his on and held it up for us to look at. One guy even took a picture.WOW is all we could say....Great guy soon to be Head Coach someday.

08-22-2006, 12:57 PM
Great article.....Nice insider information. I think it would be soooo interesting to be able to follow the coaches around for a week prior to the game to see what actually goes on behind those thick concrete walls at Heinz field as far as game planning is concerned.

Wiz, Coach Chin and the Wizard and other coaches all in one room brain storming. Eventhough I probably won't know what the hell it is they were talking about :huh: I'd want my seat right next to Coach LeBeau I'm in awe of the guys mind. :nw:

08-22-2006, 01:15 PM
Great find 83. Whiz is the future. I'm so glad we didn't loose him to another team. He definitely has a great football mind set.

08-22-2006, 01:58 PM
I wish we could see more articles like this. Ed delivered on this one - I wish we got articles like this every day. I hope he follows up on defensive and ST game planning. Steelers are pretty intelligent football fans and we deserve these types of articles - not those drab old "feel-good" human interest stories.

I would love to see much more about special teams. Instead on 90% of worthless talk during the game - could they please show the special team starters on Punts and KO and Field Goals. Most do not understand how much our backups play and contribute to a victory.

Why can't they have an AFC & NFC All-Pro 11 for Special teams.

I also wish they would publish how many plays a player played in by Offense, Defense, Special teams (by KO, Punts, and Field Goals).