The Pittsburgh Steelers End Around Scheme

The Pittsburgh Steelers have two of the most explosive players in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Ryan Dukarm highlights how Steelers end around scheme utilizes both players put opposing defenses in a bind.

The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, with a running game led by Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, plus an explosive passing game featuring Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant. The Steelers mixed the two in 2015 by designing a creative and productive end around game, which got the ball in the hands of Brown and Bryant and got them out in space to make plays. The Steelers used a variety of deceptions to create running lanes for their wide receivers, faking power and counter runs while also mixing in reverse concepts.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Faking Counter Trey

Pittsburgh is known for their ability to run the ball with power, specifically with their use of counter trey. When designing their end around runs, they take advantage of defenses’ awareness of this power tendency and use it to their advantage. In Week 9 of 2015, the Steelers faced the Oakland Raiders and gave Antonio Brown multiple opportunities to gain chunks of yardage by faking a counter run play.

Facing 2nd & 5 while trailing by three, the Steelers have 12 personnel on the field and align in a tight stack formation to the right and, after sending tight end Heath Miller (#83) into motion, have an offset i-formation with strength to the right. Antonio Brown (#84) is split out to the left, aligned halfway between the hashes and the numbers. The Steelers will fake a counter run to the left, while sending Brown behind running back Williams (#34) to receive the toss from quarterback Roethlisberger (#7) and run to the right sideline.

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At the snap, right guard David DeCastro (#66) pulls to the left of the formation, demanding the attention of the Oakland linebackers. Miller takes two steps to the left to sell that he will be a lead blocker for Williams, who in turn feigns a counter run with a jab step to the right before faking a handoff going to the left. Miller then turns around and gets out in front of Brown as the the two players in the stack formation, Jesse James (#81) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (#88), seal a wall on the right of the formation to build a running lane down the sideline for Brown, who gains 16 yards on the play.

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This play, and the Steelers faking the counter trey to run an end around in general, succeeds because of the Steelers’ known reliance on the counter run. The Steelers incorporated various aspects of the counter into the end around, as they pulled the guard to the left, had Miller sell his first few steps as a lead blocker, and faked a counter handoff to Williams.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Reverse Power Run

One of the other styles of end around that worked throughout the Steelers’ 2015 season was a reverse off of a power run play. The Steelers would run power to one side of the field, then have the running back flip the ball to the receiver running to the other side of the field.

In their Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs the Steelers use a reverse power run concept with 10:32 remaining in the third quarter while trailing 9-3 and facing 1st & 10.

The Steelers have 11 personnel on the field, with Markus Wheaton (#11) split to the left and Martavis Bryant (#10) and Antonio Brown in a slot formation to the right. Pittsburgh is in the shotgun, with RB Le’Veon Bell (#26) to the left of QB Landry Jones (#3). The Steelers begin by running power to the right, with left guard Ramon Foster (#73) pulling to lead block for Bell.


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Bryant then comes out of the slot to take a pitch from Bell around the formation to the left sideline. Wheaton runs a go-route to occupy the corner over him before blocking him down field. After selling the run to Bell, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (#78) and center Cody Wallace (#72) release and get out in front of Bryant to block on the second and third level of the defense. Bryant follows his blocks and gains 13 yards as the defense struggles to recover from defending the Bell “run”.

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The Steelers had a lot of success on end around plays to Brown and Bryant in the 2015 season, gaining a total of 65 yards on 8 end around plays between the two of them. With the success of their end around scheme, faking counter trey and running reverses off power run plays (including counter trey), the Steelers should once again achieve an exciting and productive end around game in 2016, even with the loss of Martavis Bryant. The Steelers use their known propensity for power and counter runs to their advantage, forcing over pursuit from defenders on fakes to open running lanes for their receivers.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm. Check out the rest of his work, including Buffalo’s double track block scheme.

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All film courtesy of NFL Game Pass.

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