By Alex Kozora
My game notes from the Week One game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans.
– Opening kickoff coverage unit.
L1 – Cortez Allen
L2 – Robert Golden
L3 – Shamarko Thomas
L4 – Terence Garvin
L5 – Jarvis Jones
K – Shaun Suisham
R1 – Chris Carter
R2 – Kion Wilson
R3 – Curtis Brown
R4 – Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
R5 – Markus Wheaton
– Kick return unit. Wilson, Garvin, Jones, Carter, Thomas the front five. Michael Palmer and David Paulson the next two with Cameron Heyward and Al Woods serving as the two man “wedge”. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Antonio Brown as return men.
– 2nd offense play of the game. 11 personnel with Jerricho Cotchery in the slot, Wheaton as the “X”, and Derek Moye as the “Z”. Don’t think Moye saw another offensive snap after that, however.
– 3rd and 8 on the first drive. Showed it twice in the preseason and did it once or twice in this game but Cotchery coming out of the backfield. Catch and conversion.
– Real nice job by AB to find the soft spot in the zone in the scramble drill on third and nine on the Steelers’ first drive.
– Not that anyone really needed another angle of the Maurkice Pouncey injury but the end zone view. It may seem weird for David DeCastro to be leading that far out in front but if he aims for where the tackle is at when he tries to cut, he may miss him. Lead yourself to where he’s going and Pouncey is supposed to start working to the second level. Obviously didn’t happen.
– Example of one of the many run plays that went south. No gainer early in the first. No blocker comes off the double team, working to the second level. When Isaac Redman bounces the play, the SAM flows unblocked and makes an easy tackle.
– Route concept you’ll often see in the red zone. Corner/flat when you get Cover 2. Stresses the corner. If he sinks, throw the flat. If he plays flat, throw the corner. Throw ultimately went elsewhere but a concept to keep in mind.
– It appears Ben Roethlisberger turned the wrong way on Redman’s fumble. Adding to the multitude of things that went wrong on that play. Turns to the right with Redman on his left and has to come the whole way around to hand it off, no doubt screwing up the aiming point of where to place the football. Exchange is ultimately high and the team turns it over.
– Ryan Clark taking on a pulling tight end, still able to run through him, pushes him into Chris Johnson, knocks the back down and records the tackle. He’s a missile.
– Even though he shot through unblocked on this mid-late first quarter play, have to give kudos to Ziggy Hood for chasing Chris Johnson down from behind on a stretch to the opposite side. As I’ve noted in previous articles, say what you will about Hood, but he is as athletic as they come for his size.
– Got a ton of “A” gap pressure early and really, throughout the game. Dick LeBeau very creative with his stunts. Example of confusing rookie guard Chance Warmack by dropping Lawrence Timmons after showing pre-snap blitz and shooting Heyward up the “A” gap. Pressure and the pass incomplete.
– First team jammers. Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen. Antonio Brown PR. Others: Thomas, Carter, Curtis Brown, Garvin, Wilson, Paulson, Jason Worilds, Cromartie-Smith.
– Palmer went in place of Kelvin Beachum after Pouncey injury. Clearly, 13 personnel, heavy sets was a part of the team’s gameplan, especially the scripted first 15 plays.
– One of the commentators in my “sack breakdown” article was right. Ben should have thrown the post to Paulson, who had inside leverage vs the CB. The safety is too deep to make a play on the ball and with an eight man rush, there isn’t he time to come across the field to his only other read. If someone is open, don’t go to the next read. Get the ball out.
– First team gunners. As expected, Brown and Thomas manning those spots with Robert Golden as the gunners. Others on the line from left to right: Palmer, Jarvis Jones, Wilson, Greg Warren, Carter, Worilds, Paulson.
– 3rd and 18. Even though Lawrence Timmons misses the tackle, like him containing forcing Johnson back to the flow. On third and long, just don’t let him get to the edge.
– 3rd and 8 slant to Antonio Brown for a first down early in the second quarter. Smart play from Ben. Sees late safety rotation, safety comes, Brown easily gains inside leverage on the cornerback. Pitch and catch on the slant.
– Redman fumble that the team recovered. Power O, Jurrell Casey shoots through “B” gap and blows he play up. Forces the pulling David Johnson to take a wider angle and throws the whole play off. Vs one gapping teams, running Power O will either turn out really well or really poorly. Either the defense will take themselves out of the play or will get penetration and blow it up.
– Did find the 3rd and 10 bubble screen with ten minutes left in the second a little odd but it should be noted if Paulson is able to get out and block the corner, Emmanuel Sanders would be one on one with the safety. And it’s still good to throw those wrinkles in there with Todd Haley using the bubble screen a few times a game. Remember he used it early in the game but threw to Sanders downfield. Would have gone for a first down had Ben not overthrown it.
– Next play. Curtis Brown at gunner, weaves his way through a double vice and makes the tackle. That’s the reason he’s on the team.
– Jarvis Jones hit. Nice hit but comes in free. Tight end doesn’t realize Jones is his assignment and by the time he does, can only manage to grab the air.
– Shamarko Thomas used as a jammer when the team would double vice on punt returns.
– Ben simply was a little behind on his crosser to Sanders that was intercepted. Pocket collapsing didn’t help his cause, either.
– Fourth and one conversion Jackie Battle picked up. Troy Polamalu gives Larry Foote a clean shot at Johnson by shooting through and occupying the tight end and pulling guard on Power O. Foote just doesn’t make the tackle.
Side note. The wrap he was wearing on his arm was because of a hematoma. Wonder if that contributed to his poor play.
– Titans’ TD drive. On their last five or six plays, it was nothing but Power O with Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack pulling with FB Collin Mooney pulling as the lead blocker. Earned three or four yards a pop.
– Third down wheel route to Howling that bounced off him on the first drive. Offensive line absolutely confused. David DeCastro and Mike Adams with a deer in the headlights look. Neither pick up a man. Five blocking, four rushing and two men come in free…
– Why the Power O is tough to defend. It adds a numbers advantage to the offense if you don’t put eight in the box (which the team often did. Luckily, Locker not much of a threat to throw. But I bet if I looked it up, most of his completions came vs single high safety).
Anyway, if you contain and force the play to the inside, the back just follows his lead blocking fullback and picks up three or four yards. If you try and cheat and clog the middle, the back bounces it. Lose-lose.
– So as mentioned, the way to combat it is with an eight man front. And Troy Polamalu being crazy. Cuts the legs of the pulling guard, disrupts the play.
– GIF of Cam Heyward pancaking center Rob Turner.
– Troy so quick on his dive over Locker that the cameras on the Coaches Tape barely caught it.
– Emmanuel Sanders 20 yard gain early in the 4th. Mesh concept with Brown, Sanders wide open.
– Nice job from Kion Wilson of keeping a cool head and walking away instead of retaliating on the David Stewart personal foul.
– Shamarko working exclusively in the nickel. Wonder if we’ll see a little bit of Robert Golden if the Bengals throw Greshman/Eifert in the slot to even out the height matchup.
– Markus Wheaton looking hesitant to take it out of the end zone on his first kick return. Only able to get to the seven. Too far to the left to get behind his blockers. Should have taken a knee.
– Sanders with a big catch radius. Needs to haul in a few of the go routes but plays much bigger than his frame. Example late in the game.
– I know I’ve harped on it but the offensive line just looked so unsure. Anytime they even got a blitz look pre-snap, they broke down and froze up, even when Tennessee backed off and rushed only four. Have coverage and confuse the OL? Music to a defensive coordinator’s ears. Example late in the 4th. DeCastro sees the DB show blitz pre-snap but freezes and doesn’t help Beachum even after the DB drops off the snap.
– Darius Reynaud’s 29 yard punt return. Who lost their gap? Kion Wilson, who pinched and let Reynaud get the corner.
– As Dave pointed out in a recent article and I mentioned at the end of my preseason game notes, Steve McLendon is a big asset vs outside zone Casey Hampton never was. Backside guard is having a tough time establishing inside leverage on the reach block.
Forces the running back down the tracks, makes it harder for him to hit the “B” gap and protects vs cutback lanes. Eventually, teams are going to start having to chip/combo block him with the center, making it more difficult for the center to reach the LBs at the second level. Mark of a good nose tackle.
– Titans show pre-snap blitz, OL thrown off (again). This time Tennessee comes with a stunt and DeCastro and Beachum don’t pass off correctly. Simple stunts the team can’t pick up.
– Derrick Morgan getting his arms extended, getting under Gilbert. Nearly comes away with another sack. Morgan abused Gilbert all game. On the upside, maybe the light is coming on for the former first rounder and maybe Casey is just going to be a stud defensive tackle. Glass half full?
– Pass before the Cotchery touchdown. Redman is open in the flat but Zach Brown is so fast he’s able to close and make the tackle. Ben made a poor throw too. If the throw is in stride, Redman likely scores.
– Cotchery TD. Essentially a slant/flat with Paulson, just in the slot. Common route in the red area. Looking for a rub, easy separation and the team got it.
– Like I said, the defensive line did a good job. Very active and got a lot of pressure in their pass rush. Encouraging across the board.