Inside The Tape: Break Down Of Steelers Versus Bengals

By Alex Kozora

Game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.


First Half

– Opening KR coverage. Front five: Kion Wilson, Terence Garvin, Chris Carter, Shamarko Thomas, and Jarvis Jones. David Paulson and Michael Palmer the next two with Al Woods and Cam Heyward forming the wedge. Isaac Redman the upback with Felix Jones the kick returner.

– Picture of Redman taking a shot to the head on the opening kickoff that forced him to miss time.


– Opened game in 11 personnel with Paulson starting over David Johnson. Jerricho Cotchery in the slot.

– The Steelers’ screwed up on their very first run of the game. Power O with the backside guard (Ramon Foster) ad TE Paulson pulling. Both double DE Carlos Dunlap, slanting in with Vontaze Burfict scraping over the top. Burfict unblocked and makes the tackle.



Would only be fair to point out Dunlap slanting does disrupt Paulson’s path but still, not what you want to see.

– Thomas, Antwon Blake starting gunners. Robert Golden upback. Also on punt coverage (L-R). Palmer, Jones, Wilson, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, Jason Worilds, Paulson.

– Scheme causes Andy Dalton to miss Tyler Eifert on third down on the Bengals first drive. Lawrence Timmons blitzing, Andrew Whitworth mistakenly doubles him and Brett Keisel comes in free to get the pressure.

– Double-vice jammers to each side on the first punt. Ike Taylor/Thomas to one side, Blake/Golden to the other. Others on return duties. Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, Worilds, Wilson, Paulson, Garvin, Carter, and Antonio Brown as the PR.

– Should be noted that 14 of Felix Jones’ 37 yards rushing came on a 3rd and 16 draw.

– Kickoff coverage in no particular order. Blake, Garvin, Golden, Jones, Markus Wheaton, DCS, Wilson, Thomas, Carter, William Gay.

– As we’ve talked about, Steve McClendon is a big asset vs zone runs and comes in handy on this play early in the game. Doesn’t allow the cutback from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and forces him down the line. All gaps filled and the back never able to plant and get upfield.


– Jammers when there was just one on each side. Blake and Thomas.

Kelvin Beachum made his first appearance at TE the first play of the second drive. 13 personnel on the teams own three.

– As he often does, Ben Roehlisberger checking to quick screen after seeing the Bengals’ safeties rotate to single high look. Hits Antonio Brown for a gain of 8.



– Next play with Ben pulling a Keanu Reeves from The Replacements type play, keeping the ball himself with the play broken down. How’d it happen? Lots (predictably) went wrong on the play. No one picks safety Reggie Nelson on run blitz rotating to the LOS late. Miscommunication of who was blocking who on the board.

David DeCastro expects Marcus Gilbert to pick up the safety, leaving DeCastro to take the end. Gilbert doesn’t and they double the end, letting the safety in free. Because DeCastro expects to take the end, he’s passing DT Devon Still to Fernando Velasco. Velasco doesn’t realize that and doesn’t block Still, who comes free over the “A” gap. Ugh.


– 2nd and 6, 4:24 1st. Playaction to Cotchery right sideline that misses. Watch Cotch. He slows up on his route and it’s enough to cause the incompletion.

Steelers Bengals gif

– Heavy set on Jonathan Dwyer’s lone carry. David Johnson and Will Johnson in the backfield.

– David Paulson fumble. Just a two man route with playaction after facing so many eight man fronts.


– Have to give Dalton credit on the 61 yard throw to Eifert. Manipulates Ryan Clark, looking him off to the left before coming back to the right. But have to wonder what Ike is doing on this play too. Looks like Cover 3 and he isn’t getting depth and carrying anything vertical. Seems to be concentrating on the 5 yard out when there’s already a flat defender. No need for him to worry about something short like that.


Giovani Bernard TD run. Bengals winning at the second level on this one. Kyle Cook sticks to Lawrence Timmons and Andre Smith on Vince Williams. Right guard Kevin Zeitler with a key reach block working against Al Woods to help spring the rookie running back. Ryan Clark the last line of defense but in a lose-lose. Bernard will go in whichever gap Clark doesn’t run to (if Clark stays outside, Bernard up the middle. If Clark runs downhill down the middle like he did, Bernard cuts back, which he did).


– Jonathan Dwyer stepped in as the upback with Redman sidelined.

– Just a scouting note for when the team faces Cincy again. Mike Zimmer loves to rotate his safeties late in the play. Switch the two or go from two deep shell to bringing one into the box. Really messes with your blocking scheme unless your communication on the line is smooth and quick. The Steelers’ isn’t.

– Rookie ILB woes. 14 yard gain on first play of the second quarter. At first, this run up the “A” gap looks to be contained, right?


But then Vince Williams keeps sliding down his gap instead of filling his lane and showing gap discipline. This gives the guard a better angle on him to leverage him and open up a running lane. Also, bad technique from Steve McClendon to turn his shoulders to the play instead of staying square. Unable to make the play and it’s a big pickup.


It’s not that the team was losing a great player in Larry Foote. He was just average, but it’s who is replacing him, young, inexperienced players, that’s going to really sting.

– 2nd quarter Power O. DeCastro, Paulson block the same player. Burfict again unblocked. This isn’t an issue of talent. It’s boneheaded mistakes that don’t even give your offense a chance to succeed.

– 3rd and 8, 12:24 2nd. Bengals “Sugar the ‘A’ gaps” (fake blitz) + Michael Johnson with a wide tech = Mike Adams having no chance to block him.

Steelers Bengals

– As I figured, Robert Golden covering Jermaine Gresham in a few instances (one picture below). Helps even out height advantage instead of having Thomas on coverage.


– Thank goodness Ziggy Hood got some pressure on this play and Dalton didn’t look downfield, having a low/high read off playaction. Or it’s an easy six to A.J. Green after Ike Taylor falls down.


– Another poorly run Power O!


– Cotchery end around. Maybe Paulson should have blocked Carlos Dunlap? But at least he was able to block Reggie Nelson, right…?

Steelers Bengals

– Late second quarter, Paulson chipped Johnson to the point where Adams wasn’t able to mirror the DE to the inside and he gets beat.

– No first round pick ego for Jarvis. Taking pride in special teams, laying the boom on the kickoff after Derek Moye’s TD. Love it.

– When in quarters, Troy/Clark were often acting as linebackers with Robert Golden the deep safety. Worked pretty well.


– Gresham catch/run that gave Bengals spark to try and score points right before the half (even though they didn’t). Who had curl/flat responsibility here? Why is Thomas playing so deep?


– I can’t believe any player wakes up sorer than Ryan Clark. Sacrifices his body every play.

Second Half

– Wheaton seeing action on punt returns as a rusher on the Bengals first punt of the second half.

– Steelers first punt of the second half. Thomas as a gunner gets pushed a good 3-4 yards out of bounds. But isn’t fazed, outruns both jammers, and is the first man to Brandon Tate, slowing him up and allowing Kion Wilson/Jarvis Jones to make the tackle. Keisel and Clark took notice as they came back onto the field. Good stuff from the rookie.

– Two plays later on Gresham’s 28 yard catch. Wilson likely screwed up assignment, taking the flat with Gay already there. Pitch/catch for Dalton.


– Something that rarely gets a lot of love/fanfare. Quality tackling technique. Timmons shows it in the early-mid 3rd quarter. Bernard on a cutback, Timmons gets his body square to the back and drives through the ballcarrier for the stop. Well done!




– Bernard’s 2nd TD. Bad angle from Clark and Wilson slipped and fell. Enough room to let the rookie find paydirt.

– On bubble screens throughout the game, just unable to get the EMOL to the flat quick enough be it Gilbert or Paulson.

– 5:39, 3rd. Gilbert bullrushed and put on his butt by Dunlap.

Steelers Bengals

– Lots of friendly fire in this game. DeCastro rolled into Mike Adams leg, Jarvis Jones crashed into LaMarr Woodley on a stunt, and Ryan Clark rolled over Troy Polamalu on another play.

– Zone blitz stunt between Heyward and Woodley. Keisel drops. Dalton forced to scramble and Cincy has to punt. Like LeBeau said, the pressure has been there even if the sacks haven’t.


– Adams was so concerned about being beat on the outside rush that he started opening his gate and letting Johnson beat him to the inside. Just has to give the outside step, let Adams open up, and hen counter to the inside. Look at Adams’ feet here.


Nothing the left tackle can do by this point. Doesn’t have his base to derive power from so he’s forced to lunge to no avail.


– Next play. I want to throw up. Protection completely breaks down vs “A” gap blitz. No one picks the LB up, no one pinches, and you get three lineman blocking two pass rushers on the left side. Velasco needs to slide down. Ugly.


Ben barely gets it away on an errant throw.

And whatever Mike Adams is doing on that play, I don’t think I want to know. Hard to tell in the still shot but perhaps his worst play of the game. And he didn’t even allow pressure.

– Tough for me to blame William Gay on Marvin Jones 16 yard catch early in the 4th quarter. Would not expect Jones to run a corner route with that wide initial split even with inside stem. Would think inside breaking route (dig, post).


– 3rd and 2 get off down late in the game. Backside “C” gap open for Green-Ellis to run through. No one fills. Hard to say if that was Vince Williams’ responsibility, Woodley’s, or someone else’s. Thoughts?


– Likely would have been a TD had Keisel not batted the pass down. Not that it ultimately mattered but still worth pointing out.


– Fake bubble screen, streak to Cotchery that goes for 21. Would have worked last week too vs Tennessee had Ben not overthrown Sanders. Keeps defenses guessing and makes them pay if they’re over-aggressive. Like the playcall.


– Quick route concept. “Tare” route. 3×1 with backside slant/post. Tare route are two out routes by No.2 and No. 3 receiver with the #1 running a streak. Ran it late in the game.


– Poor stunt pickup #1 in the 4th quarter.


– Poor stunt pickup #2 in the 4th quarter (the very next play)


– Tough play for Cotchery on the INT but on 3rd and 2 when you need points, gotta make that play. Even on a poorly thrown ball.

– Jarvis Jones did an excellent job getting off blocks, even when taking on a pulling guard. FAR superior against the run than he is as a pass rusher at the moment.

– Late in the game, Gilbert somehow managed to get beat to the inside by a DT slanting to the outside on a T/E stunt. Was able to slant into Gilbert and then work back to the inside.

– DeCastro butt block alert! Against Geno Atkins late in the game.


– Running backs struggling so much because there are ZERO running lanes. Line not helping out at all. Put Jim Brown back there and he only rushes for three yards a carry.

Hey diddle diddle, Rogel up the middle…

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