HALF A TON OF TROUBLE

  • Share
  • Read Later

(3 of 7)

Today a team wins or loses on games within the game. A particular "game" can be a certain pass-rushing pattern. Instead of sending each lineman driving straight ahead into blockers on the shortest route toward the quarterback, a game can use one lineman to run interference for another. The basic Steelers games are called "me" and "you" (you because of the U-shaped route one of the linemen runs, me just as the opposite of you). In the me game, Left End L.C. Greenwood will push himself and his blocker inside toward the offensive guard, who would normally block Left Tackle Joe Greene. While Greenwood is keeping that area clogged and trying to bust through himself, Greene is cutting to the open area outside and sweeping back in on the quarterback. The you game is the reverse, with Greene running interference on the outside while Greenwood cuts over the offensive-guard position (see diagram).

Right End Dwight White and Right Tackle Ernie Holmes use the same tricks on their side of the line, often on the same play as Greenwood and Greene. These combinations are called "double" games. To put the offensive line further off balance, Greenwood and Greene will sometimes charge using a me while White and Holmes employ the you. In still another refinement, the two tackles can run their own separate game, crossing paths as they bull ahead. That is called a "torn" game (T for tackle and torn).

Last week, in the Pittsburgh-Houston game, the payoff for all this strategy was obvious. In the second period, with the Steelers ahead only 9-3 and the Oilers beginning to show some offensive muscle, Greenwood wheeled in over the middle of the offensive line, forcing Houston Quarterback Dan Pastorini out of the pocket. As he fled, Pastorini threw a wild pass that was intercepted, setting up what proved to be Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown. (Final score: Steelers 32-9.) The turnover was the result of a me game George Perles had devised for certain third-down passing situations.

The front four, of course, do not neglect defense against running plays, and for these too they employ more than one tactic. Rather than lining up in the traditional formation, defensive ends opposite offensive tackles, defensive tackles against guards, and the middle linebacker responsible for the center, the Steelers use what is called a "stunt 4-3." In this alignment, Joe Greene edges toward the center. His assignment: to stop both guard and center, leaving the middle linebacker unmolested, free to deck the runner as he crosses the line of scrimmage.

The best devised strategies, of course, are only as good as the players executing them, and that is where Pittsburgh has the advantage over any other team in the league. "What impresses me," says George Allen, "is that they're all so quick. They move like linebackers." Alex Karras, Monday football broadcaster and former all-pro defensive tackle with the Detroit Lions, puts it this way: "It's simple. They're the biggest, strongest, fastest and meanest." The players speak for themselves:

White: "That offensive lineman is there to stop me from getting to the quarterback. He might as well forget it. He'll just get caught between the stink and the sweat. I'll kick, slap, gouge. On that field, I take no prisoners."

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7