Steelers Versus Chiefs – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

Below is a list of random notes and observations from the first half during the third preseason game for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • Right from the very first play of the game, safety Troy Polamalu was up at the line of scrimmage, screaming in from the defensive right side to make the run stop. Somehow, it was just obvious that he was going to have one of those games where he is everywhere on the field, which has not been seen much since the 2010 season. Hopefully a sign of things to come for this season.
  • On the third play of the game, cornerback Cortez Allen missed an open field tackle after a short completion, nearly allowing a first down before outside linebacker Jason Worilds made the tackle out of bounds. It was evident that Allen was somewhat hesitant to push himself too much in his first game action of the year. He is typically a stout tackler, so I don’t expect to see this too often this year.
  • Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons got off to a bit of a slow start, but he rebounded well and made some nice plays, as has become the expectation for him. He allowed a reception early on, and later, on the Chiefs’ first big running play, he over-pursued to the defensive right side, allowing Jamaal Charles a clear path through the running lane and into the secondary.
  • The aforementioned play was blocked well, with the lead fullback taking out Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood being double teamed. Hood did at least try to close the gap somewhat and make the lane narrower. Steve McLendon was walked out of the play pretty efficiently by center Rodney Hudson, but hey, it happens.
  • On the very next play, McLendon dominated Hudson in the run game, shoving him back several yards into Charles’ face and allowing Larry Foote easy penetration. Of course, Timmons still got there first taking the scenic route around right tackle and still made the play in the backfield.
  • On third down, Polamalu effectively played inside linebacker with Timmons in on the rush. He covered quarterback Alex Smith’s first read on the play, giving the defense enough time to get into the backfield, with Hood the first on the scene and earning the sack.
  • Kelvin Beachum entered the game as the sixth lineman on the very first play of the game, shaded to the offensive right side. First down was a running play in his direction. He did not push his assignment far enough to open enough of a lane for the back. On second down, he was in on pass protection when Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 49-yard completion.
  • Mike Adams was so worried about Tamba Hali cutting inside of him that he could not muster much more than a meek shove when he continued to go outside. Hali is a really good player, a Pro Bowl-caliber player. But he got five pressures during the game, including one hit on the quarterback, and that is too much. Adams is going to have some growing pains, and the Steelers are just going to have to deal with that, but I think he will be fine.
  • Jonathan Dwyer bounced a play to the outside and it worked for a nice gain. Worth noting all on its own. Beachum’s back was to the offensive line, suggesting that Dwyer was supposed to cut in behind him, but clearly the block was good enough for Dwyer to get around the edge. In actuality, it was a smart play, because safety Eric Berry was coming in to fill that hole. Dwyer completely bypassed him.
  • Little things could have made this a much bigger half for the first-team offense. On third and five from the 10, Roethlisberger and Brown were not in sync on the play that should have gone for a first down without much issue.
  • Jarvis Jones made the ensuing tackle on special teams at the 12-yard line and stayed in on defense, replacing Worilds for the series. The linebackers rotated on every single series, with Worilds coming back in to replace LaMarr Woodley on the left side on the next, then the starters resuming their regular spots on the next, etc. Linebackers coach Keith Butler is clearly very serious about a rotation at outside linebacker.
  • Allen was tested nearly 20 yards down the field, and he may have gotten a hand on it to deflect it away. He seemed to be getting more comfortable as the game went on. On the next play, he stopped a completed pass in a soft zone a yard shy of the first down.
  • Great job by the defense on the ensuing short-yardage standoff, but especially by Foote for cramming that hole quickly, giving Charles nowhere to go, on third down. He legitimately did not get that ball past the first-down marker.
  • My god. Polamalu. It really is not fair to the other team when he is healthy.
  • After his initial penetration, the whole play was too much of an entire defensive effort for it to be fair to single anybody out for accolades.
  • Nice job by Emmanuel Sanders to swat the ball away on the next play on an underthrown ball. Sometimes receivers need to play defensive back to save their quarterbacks. As a bonus, your quarterback feels more confident throwing it to you if you can do that.
  • Dwyer picked up the blitzer just enough to give Roethlisberger enough time to find Jerricho Cotchery on first down. Nice job, but get in there a little more next time.
  • Roethlisberger was sacked two plays later by a blitzing Derrick Johnson. Not a whole lot Dwyer could have done on that one, coming out of a static stance a full five yards behind the play. The quick targets were covered well and Roethlisberger had to eat it.
  • My god. Roethlisberger. It really is not fair to the other team when he is healthy.
  • Nice awareness by Dwyer to stick with the play and make himself available, and he was rewarded well with the score.
  • Yes, the second half kickoff unit gave up a touchdown. But the first half kickoff unit did an excellent job, and you cannot ignore that. Different personnel, backups in, etc.
  • Jarvis Jones almost batted down a pass at the line on the very next play. I didn’t even notice that while watching the game, so I’m mentioning it here. I may be saying “my god” about him some day.
  • I’m going to have to agree with the majority of commenters out there on this one: there was no need for Antonio Brown to be returning punts in this game. Good thing there were so many touchbacks.
  • Little things ruining what should have been a big day for the first-team offense number two: the completely bogus chop block call on Dwyer. The officials must have guessed on that call. It negated a 25-yard completion to Brown that brought the Steelers to the 17-yard line. Instead, they were left with second and 22 at their own 43-yard line. That is a 40-yard differential on one blown call by the official. Huge.
  • Shamarko Thomas continued his strong work as a gunner. Looks like he was born for that role.
  • Hard to fault Polamalu for biting on the fake handoff on that naked bootleg by Smith.
  • Little things ruining what should have been a big day for the first-team offense number three: the questionable ‘through the catch’ rule that rendered Sanders’ 34-yard touchdown an incompletion. If that play were not in the corner (i.e. inbounds), it would have been a touchdown because the ball never touched the ground. Credit cornerback Brandon Flowers for doing everything he could after getting beat. He got his arm in between the ball and Sanders’ arms while he was tucking it in and basically ripped the ball loose with a backhand. Count it in Ben’s stats anyway.
  • The Chiefs ran a nice play on the field goal block. They overloaded the offensive right side of the play. And believe it or not, they only had 10 players on the field. Jarvis Jones was left to block two people and only slightly impeded one of them, so I’m not too eager to give him credit for ultimately falling on the ball. As long as it’s recovered on the ground, it doesn’t make a difference which team recovers the ball anyway. The ball still changes hands.
  • Smart decision by Smith to take off on the first play after the blocked field goal. Keisel and Jones were caught too far to the left and left tackle Branden Albert ran Foote off some distance. With a cornerback blitz on, he had plenty of green in front of him.
  • The offense was moving along nicely on the ensuing drive until the double safety blitz blew everything up. With David DeCastro sticking to his double-team the other way, Dwyer was left with two players to pick up, and Roethlisberger didn’t see it coming. While he should have done a better job picking up Berry, there was nothing he could have done to prevent that sack on his own unless DeCastro slid over.
  • Felix Jones really should not have run out of bounds on the next play. He knows better.
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