The UPMC Sports Performance Complex is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Football. For Pitt coaches, there are many perks to sharing a complex with an NFL team. Pristine fields, state of the art training facilities, a world class dining service, but most important, access. Access to the top minds in the sport. Dick LeBeau, the current defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, is a legendary defensive mind. During his 13 year tenure as the Steelers DC, his defenses were ranked in the NFL’s top 5 defenses 10 times. Needless to say, the man is a guru and someone’s mind that needs to be picked.
Phil Bennett, the current DC at Baylor and former Pitt DC, took advantage of this access. Over Bennett’s tenure at Pitt, he had become acquaintances with LeBeau, and the two would bounce ideas off each other. The spread had entered the NFL and Bennett was always looking for new ideas. While watching practice film with LeBeau, Bennett noticed the way the legend used his pass skell., or controlled 7-on-7. What Bennett saw changed the way he would practice from then on. In front of him, on those pristine fields at UPMC, was a pass skell. filled with blitz after blitz. Bennett asked LeBeau why he blitzes so much during what normally is a very passive part of practice. LeBeau explained that the best way to ensure a blitz is viable against the pass is to stress it against what it is going to see during a game. Many times, coaches approach pass skell. as a practice in base pass distribution. LeBeau, being the creative genius that he is, saw an opportunity to enhance his blitzes. By stressing the defenses during pass skell. you get a real-time view of what the pass distribution is, and if there are any deficiencies. Many times a blitz looks great on paper, but when put it in a real-time game situation it is exposed for its weaknesses.
When a coach is asked why he does something, the worst answer he can give is, “Because we’ve always done it that way.” Great coaches flex and mold depending on what they need. Whether it is Bill Belichick switching up from a 3-4 to 4-3, and vice-versa, or Nick Saban changing the way he attacks an offense depending on if he is seeing spread or a power run game. Great coaches always seek an edge, they are adaptable and challenge their own status quo. Change the way you view pass skell. 7-on-7 is a great opportunity to see in real time if your players understand the pass distribution, and if you have deficiencies in your blitz. So next time you are planning practice during the season throw some heat at the offense.