The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a few offseason surprises that may change their philosophy on offense this upcoming season. The retirement of Heath Miller, and the suspension of Martavis Bryant are two huge losses for the Steelers. Pittsburgh will most likely have to adjust the scheme on offense to accommodate the loss of these two key players. That’s where 12 personnel comes in.
What is 12 personnel you ask? Most NFL teams use this number system to define what offense is being used. The first number (1) is used for how many running backs are in the formation, the second number (2) represents the number of tight ends. So 12 personnel would be 1 back and 2 tight ends, 11 personnel would be 1 back and 1 tight end. It’s a very basic system for defenses to define who is on the field at a given time.
Pittsburgh used 11 personnel most often, and were very successful with it. This allowed them to get their 3 talented receivers on the field along with Heath Miller at tight end. This worked well because Heath Miller was so good at helping out the tackles in pass protection, as well as being a threat as a receiver down the middle. There were times Miller would even be left alone to block edge rushers, while the tackles would block down on the interior lineman. This allowed Ben Roethlisberger time to pick out open receivers. The scheme also worked so well because the Steelers had many skilled receivers they could throw out there. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton were the best trio of receivers in the NFL.
Using 12 personnel in 2016 better suits the players Pittsburgh now has on offense. Playing a system with two tight ends has it’s advantages. What it does is forces defenses to use less defensive backs because the threat to run is always there. This will get newly acquired tight end Ladarius Green matched up against linebackers, where he can take advantage of his speed and pass catching abilities. Having a healthy L’veon Bell with two tight ends will also cause safeties to play up more to help defend the run, opening up the deep pass. Pittsburgh saw a lot of deep safeties last season, something that seemed to frustrate Ben Roethlisberger at times. Second year tight end Jesse James will be key for this system as well. James showed promise in limited playing time last season, and should get plenty of snaps in this scheme.
12 personnel is nothing new to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they used it occasionally last season especially in running situations. With most teams in the NFL going with 3, 4, and even 5 wide receiver sets, it will be advantageous for the Steelers to go against the grain and run something defenses are not used to seeing so often. The New England Patriots have been using 12 personnel for years with great success. Not a bad blueprint to follow.