To avoid risking further injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's broken right thumb, the Pittsburgh Steelers have elected not to have him take snaps under center when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Instead, they'll run their offense out of the Pistol formation, wherein the quarterback lines up roughly three yards behind the center. Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation's Steelers blog, argues the Pistol could aid Pittsburgh on a strategic level as well. One key difference between the Pistol and the Shotgun is the alignment of the running back. Coolong explains:
Out of the Pistol, the back is still lined up behind Roethlisberger, not tipping off their intentions on any play. He also has the time to be able to hand off with his left hand by utilizing a reverse pivot.
As Coolong notes, the Shotgun prompts the running back to line up evenly with the quarterback, and thus telegraphs which direction he'll run if the play indeed calls for a run. The Pistol introduces an element of unpredictability by stationing the running back behind the quarterback.
Further, Coolong says, the Pistol plays to Rashard Mendenhall's strengths as a runner:
Add in Mendenhall giving a jab step to his right to sell the defense on a run play to that side, he still can generate momentum to the left, and run downhill off the edge - that's when he's at his best.
The author describes how "22 Double," the Steelers' most effective run play, might work when run out of the Pistol formation. It's essential reading for Pitts fans who might be worried their quarterback's broken thumb could do the Steelers in against the Chiefs.