This may be the last year that my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers have their long-time quarterback under center. I mean, right now the options to replace him aren’t great; between previous use of backup Mason Rudolph and signing the washout from the Washington Football Team Dwayne Haskins, it looks like our quarterback might get one more chance to make his fourth Super Bowl, and possibly win his third.
But he’s apparently got a tell.
A “tell,” in sports, means that you do something unintentionally with your body or your mannerisms that alerts your opponent of your possible move. A pitcher slightly wiggling his glove prior to a pitch could signal a fastball to the batter. A poker player who raises an eyebrow after checking his hand could alert his opponents that he’s got a 2-7 off-suit, no matter how high he bets.
Over the weekend, a TikTok user checked out some videos of the Steelers, and noticed that last year, the quarterback had a distinct tell as to whether he would hand the ball off to running backs James Conner or Benny Snell Jr., or whether he would pass the long ball to wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster or Chase Claypool.
What Ash has discovered is that when the Pittsburgh quarterback is in shotgun formation – in football parlance, he’s a few feet away from the center so that the ball can be snapped to him, instead of being directly under center and receiving the ball that way – he has a quickly-discernable tell as to whether he will throw or pass the ball. If his back heel is flat to the ground, it’s a handoff. If the heel is elevated prior to the snap, then he’s throwing for yardage.
As an example, I’m posting this clip of that quarterback’s games in which he’s thrown for 500 yards or more. He’s had three such games. Watch his feet prior to the snap.
Well, you’ll have to watch it on YouTube, I can’t embed it here. But trust me on this.
What happens is … if he’s in the shotgun formation prior to the snap, if you look at his back heel, you can tell if the play will be a pass or a run. And he’s had this tell since at least 2009, as can be evidenced in the video.
So what does that mean? Can defenses adapt quickly?
Maybe. This is why NFL players spent countless hours studying game film. They’re looking for tells. They’re looking for player positioning, any noticeable advantage that can give them a clue as to how to countermand the situation.
Then again, we can see this “tell” from our living rooms. Imagine trying to see this tell from the defensive line, when you’re staring across from the dominating Steelers offensive line. And even if you get a glimpse past that, and you still try to run up on the quarterback, he’s still got plenty of weapons to make you look silly. Heck, we just drafted Najee Harris, who will probably be the next great Harris-surnamed Steelers running back. And we still have Juju for one more year and we have rising stars in Chase Claypool and Benny Snell Jr.
And even if you do get to the quarterback after all that, just remember that he is #2 among active quarterbacks with over 60,000 completed passing yards, and 7th overall – with more career passing yards than Eli Manning, John Elway, Warren Moon or Fran Tarkenton ever achieved. And he could pass Dan Marino and Philip Rivers into 5th place if he stays healthy this season.
So yeah, it’s a tell. Do with it what you will. But work quickly. You may only get one season to do this, before he finally retires and we get a Steelers starting QB whose name I will actually mention in this blog.
Trust me. For all the winning seasons and all the Super Bowls achieved … there’s no reason for me to honor a man who admitted to sexual assault by glorifying his name in my blog.