Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jack Bicknell, Jr. were to instill the future of the Steelers running game for years to come with the installment of the outside zone blocking scheme. No one really knows for sure what happened in the early days of the season and why the zone scheme went away so quickly. Was it David DeCastro taking out teammate Maurkice Pouncey at the knees and losing our starting center eight plays into the 2013 season? Were the players struggling that much with what was supposed to be a more simplistic system? Was Bicknell, Jr. just not working out as a good fit for the Steelers? Either way, the system was scrapped for the most part.
With the hiring of former line coach and Tennessee Titan head coach Mike Munchak, the outside zone is getting another shot in Steel Town.
[Outside zone blocking] is not very hard to do; just like anything it’s repetition. It gives the [running] back a three way go. He’s going to read a certain block, and he’s either going to bounce that ball outside, or he’s going to take it back inside. So, he has a way of making us look good real quickly once the running back gets used to the schemes we’re running. There’s a lot of ways you can play around with the back side and change the blocking schemes to give the defense something to think about constantly. It fits in greatly with the play action. - Mike Munchak
Sounds like Munchak is fairly certain that the zone will become an integral part of the offense this season….. and it’s up to Le’Veon Bell to make it all work.
Bell certainly didn’t have it easy last season. After not starting a few games because of a foot injury he sustained over the summer, he had to work hard at gaining a presence within the offense and prove to the coaches that he was in fact the featured back. Bell was able to gain over 1,000 yards of total offense last season. That was not an easy feat, considering the offensive line struggled (an understatement) the first half of the season. As the second half of the season wore on, the line improved, and Bell really settled in.
If Munchak can improve the offensive line run blocking even further it appears that the pressure lies solely with Bell. I know that Munchak is not directly applying pressure on Bell’s capability of running with results. But, the way he speaks about the zone scheme makes it sound like the execution of the scheme is rather easy – and it’s up to the running back to make it all work. Bounce it outside. Make a cut inside. Be decisive. Make good gains.
Bells solid rookie performance last year only leads to some scrutiny this season if he can’t get things going. The bar has been raised, and the assumption is that the line will pave the way for big gains with Bell due to Munchak’s coaching. If Bell can’t keep the YPC up and have some big runs this season, there’s no doubt that many will question Bell’s ability over the offensive line’s.
I hope Bell can bring it this season because I like this kid and think he has a ton of potential to be a very good running back. Munchak is primed to set the table, and hopefully Bell can take full advantage of an offensive line and blocking scheme that tips the scales in his direction.