Steelers Versus Bears – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • Once again, Kion Wilson started at inside linebacker in place of Larry Foote. Will this be the last time?
  • The Steelers also started the game in the nickel despite being down a starting cornerback. That’s a lot of trust in the young Shamarko Thomas.
  • The Steelers failed to stop second and one opportunities twice on the first drive once again. That needs to get better.
  • On the first and ten screen that Troy Polamalu blew up on that first drive, the Steelers moved to their quarter package. Polamalu was at linebacker depth on the play as he often is in that sub-package.
  • Will Johnson met Lance Briggs in the hole on the team’s first offensive play of the game, and it helped open up a hole through the middle that was enough to get Felix Jones free for a first down.
  • On the next play, he was out on the line running a pass pattern. The play instead went, of course, to Heath Miller for his first reception of the year.
  • Even though Ramon Foster allowed the free runner on the first strip ‘sack’ of the game, Ben Roethlisberger deserves the blame for the ultimate outcome of that play. After the game, he insisted that both strips were just good football plays. He is sadly mistaken, and needs to take accountability. He was too loose with the ball, period.
  • On the first play after the turnover, Kion Wilson got a good hit on Jay Cutler after he read that he had nobody to cover on the play, forcing him to rush the throw.
  • One of the few times the quarter package failed: the third and nine two plays later. Matt Forte took a dump off pass 11 yards with just one blocker after Polamalu bailed on his coverage because two receivers went deep behind him despite them being in one on one coverage. It proved to be the difference between 10-0 and 6-0 at the time.
  • Will Johnson continued to line up outside multiple times to begin the second drive. The first time he ran a route, the second time he cut in to block.
  • Roethlisberger’s long pass to Emmanuel Sanders on third down was just a touch too long. Had he hit him in stride, it would have been a touchdown with ease. He had a step and a half or more on Charles Tillman.
  • There really was not much good about the ensuing near-touchdown run by Forte following the punt. Ryan Clark had a chance to minimize it to a run of six or seven yards, but he missed the tackle. William Gay had a chance to stop it at 25 or 30, but he tried to uppercut the ball out instead of bring the runner down. Instead, it went for about 55.
  • The Bears may very well have scored twice, if not three times, on the goal line stand that followed. Still, those were very close plays.
  • Lawrence Timmons had a clear shot at Michael Bush on the fourth down play, but he could not bring him down, even with the help of Vince Williams. Timmons has not gotten off to a running start this season.
  • It is nice to see David DeCastro starting to pull and actually blocking people. He threw a block that helped free Jones for six yards on first down.
  • But he always seems to be pulling to the right, thus far. When will that change?
  • The blocking really wasn’t always so miserable as it seemed on Sunday. For example, on the third down play after the second sack, Roethlisberger had all day and a clean pocket, which ended in a 45-yard reception to Antonio Brown.
  • Curtis Brown and the special teams coverage units did a nice job all night bottling up Devin Hester. After the Steelers finally got a field goal, they only allowed Hester to get out to the seven.
  • On Roethlisberger’s pick-six, perhaps he was getting impatient, because he threw that ball well before Jerricho Cotchery was out of his break and ready to look for the ball coming to him. And just like that the Steelers were down 21 points.
  • Once again, the Steelers produce negative runs due to poor execution. Heath Miller is slow off the line and is too late to slow Lance Briggs, who blows up Jonathan Dwyer in the backfield on second and one for a four-yard loss.
  • I’ve already commented on it elsewhere, but both of Brown’s touchdown receptions showed great off-the-ball awareness. On his first half touchdown, he located the ball, determined that it would come up short, and then battled for position with the cornerback. And he made it look easy.
  • One of the few times (perhaps the only time) DeCastro pulled left, Felix Jones followed behind him for nine yards.
  • On the next play, he pulled right, and sprang Dwyer for 25 yards. This is the David DeCastro that has been waiting to come out.
  • Dwyer seemed awfully pleased with himself after the run, but he really should be thanking DeCastro, and Emmanuel Sanders, whose blocks left him untouched until he smacked Chris Conte with the crown of his helmet 25 yards down the field, which should have been a penalty, since he was fined for it.
  • On the next play, Dwyer was dropped for a loss after Mike Adams got beat by Julius Peppers and grazed his side.
  • Roethlisberger threw behind Markus Wheaton on the first target of his career. But hey, at least they finally threw him a pass.
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