- Jeff Gross/Getty
The Pittsburgh Steelers came up with a huge win Monday night against the Chargers on what would have been a disastrous play call had it not worked.
With five seconds remaining, down three, at first-and-goal, the Steelers opted to snap the ball to Le’Veon Bell to run in the touchdown instead of kicking it and going to overtime.
Not only was the decision to run a final play surprising, it came in the wildcat formation, a seemingly dying formation that the Steelers revived Monday night.
In the wildcat, teams snap the ball directly to a non-quarterback, almost always with the intention of running the ball. In doing so, it gives the running back time to directly attack the defense, while also giving the offense an extra blocker, since there’s no quarterback involved.
Against the Chargers, the Steelers ran the wildcat five times, with four of those snaps going directly to Bell. According to ESPN’s “Mike and Mike,” across the entire league, the wildcat had only been used three times throughout this season.
The once trendy play had pretty much died off, until Monday’s game.
The Steelers mainly had success with it, too. Bell finished the game with 111 yards on 21 carries. He gained a total of 12 yards on his first two wildcat snaps, then got tackled for a loss of four on the third attempt. His fourth was the game-winning touchdown run, where Bell used his patented patience in waiting for his blocks, then slithering to the end zone:
Bell told reporters after the game, that the Steelers knew they would be going to the wildcat more this week.
“I knew we were going for it,” Bell said. “I knew the play was going to get called. We were talking about it all week.”
What running the wildcat also does is limit how much the Steelers have to rely on Mike Vick. Vick finished with 13-26 passing for 208 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. While he helped push the Steelers down the field for a great final drive that set up Bell’s run, he looked his age for most of the night, often missing his targets.
The Steelers are simply biding time until Roethlisberger comes back, and with Vick very much looking like a backup, they’re getting creative on offense until they’re at full health. It remains to be seen whether or not the Steelers will keep using the wildcat over the next few weeks, but for at least one game, reviving what has otherwise been an extinct play helped get the Steelers a big win.