Steelers add zone-blocking to running game

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh is hoping a different approach to running the football renews their ground attack in 2013.

New Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. has spent the early portions of the team's organized activities this offseason introducing a zone-blocking scheme, and according to a report from Mark Kaboly of the Tribune-Review on Thursday, the team's offensive linemen and running backs are excited about the shift.

Zone-blocking, used to great success of late by Arian Foster and the Houston Texans, focuses on the offensive line shifting as one to a side, blocking areas of the field and double-teaming defensive linemen. It is designed to open gaps on the outside, as well as cutback lanes, for rushers to choose on their own. Bicknell Jr., notes Kaboly, comes from the Kansas City Chiefs, where the same system helped spring running back Jamaal Charles for 1,509 rushing yards last season.

Steelers' blog Behind the Steel Curtain: Marcus Gilbert gets zone-blocking advice from Texans LT

The scheme will be one part of the Steelers' running game, according to the report, rather than a complete overhaul. In the report, running back Isaac Redman said the addition is going to be a welcome change of pace for the Pittsburgh offense:

"It is going to help our offensive line a lot because guys are going to be on the move where they can take their guy and keep him moving, and we can cut back off of it. In the past we were just pounding and pounding, and they were getting tired. That's not going to happen this year because we are going to mix it up."

The Steelers needed something to mix it up after finishing the 2012 season ranked 26th in the league with an average of 96.1 rushing yards per game. As Kaboly writes, Jonathan Dwyer's team-high 623 yards on the ground was the lowest total for Steelers' leading runner since 1991.

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