Courtesy of Point Park University

Friday Insider: Bringing back play-action ☕


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One thing that has baffled some regarding the Steelers' offense in recent years is the lack of the use of play-action passing.

Last season, for example, the Steelers ran play-action just 12 percent of the time -- the lowest total in the NFL. That was actually an uptick from 2017, when they ran play-action just 11 percent of the time.

But of Mason Rudolph's 19 passes last week against the Seahawks, seven came off play-action of some type. Rudolph completed 5 of 7 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown off play-action, a passer rating of 131.6.

It seems that as he has aged, Ben Roethlisberger doesn't necessarily like play-action, which can cause a quarterback to have to take his eyes off the defense while performing the run fake. In fact, the Steelers haven't been above 14 percent play-action usage since 2014, when they were middle of the pack at 22 percent.

With Rudolph at quarterback for the rest of this season, the Steelers could return to using it as a weapon more.

"He probably can do it a little bit more," Jaylen Samuels told me of Rudolph. "He’s younger and has more mobility. I think you’ll probably see that a little more. I’m not sure yet. But I think you might see a little more boots and mobile things. Mason can be more of a runner than Ben was."

It's not even really necessary for a team to be running the ball well to use it -- though that doesn't hurt. The Steelers have run the ball just 29 times in their first two games, a number that should increase. But the idea is to freeze defenders, if just for a split second, or better yet, get them coming forward and then throw the ball into the areas they have vacated.

"It can do a lot of things," Alejandro Villanueva told me. "It can ease a lot of pressure on the offensive line. It can keep the defenses on their toes more. It can make big plays. There are a lot of things play-action can do for you, but you have to do it well and it has to be based on the run game."

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