Steelers Versus Bengals I – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • Isaac Redman pretty visibly got the worst of the action during a collision on the opening kickoff with undrafted rookie linebacker Jayson DiManche. The two both lowered their shoulders, and Redman appeared to get the business end of the shoulder to his head.
  • Remember, Redman was playing the up back because of the season-ending injury to LaRod Stephens-Howling, which pushed Felix Jones from the up back to the returner, and forced Redman to play the up back.
  • One wonders how much the injury impacted the team’s game plan, which resulted in Jones getting the start and the bulk of the carries. When Redman was finally able to return, he was still ineffective, however.
  • Antwon Blake made his presence felt on the first punt, getting down the field—then getting knocked down after being double teamed—and ultimately making the tackle after the returner was penned in.
  • Cameron Heyward replacing Ziggy Hood on obvious passing situations in the nickel seems to be the plan going forward at this point, which is fine by me. Heyward is clearly the better pass rusher of the two.
  • Antonio Brown answered the question “why would you have your top receiver returning punts” fairly convincingly with his first return of the game, which put the Steelers in field goal range and allowed them to score despite not gaining a first down on their first two drives.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had Emmanuel Sanders on the ensuing play into the end zone, but he just overthrew him. Sanders may have been slowed a half step by the defensive back, but he had the separation necessary in the end to bring in a better thrown ball.
  • David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert both got outmuscled on the next play, which resulted in a sack. Frankly, I am seeing too much of this from DeCastro, to the point that it is becoming a concern.
  • I liked the call for a draw on the third and long to get into manageable field goal range at that point. Felix Jones did a good job of reading his blocks (including one by David Paulson down the field) to pick up as much as he could.
  • Shaun Suisham’s hamstring looked pretty good to me on that field goal, and then the kickoff to the back of the end zone.
  • David Johnson took a rep at fullback for Jonathan Dwyer’s sole carry during the game and did a nice job.
  • So did Will Johnson. Interesting to see both of them in the backfield at the same time.
  • Paulson displayed disappointing awareness not to attempt to cover up the ball after he had it stripped from him after his long reception. Even if he felt that he was already down before the ball was out, he still should have had the presence of mind to go after it to avoid…well, to avoid what ended up happening.
  • Shame on the coaching staff for being more concerned with getting the right personnel on the field than running a play to elude the risk of losing possession of the ball. The decision almost certainly cost the Steelers points, as they were on the 16-yard line before giving the Bengals enough time to review and challenge the play.
  • Vince Williams saw his first snap following that turnover and was targeted in the passing game on the first play, allowing a reception for a short gain to Jermaine Gresham.
  • We all know that Ryan Clark blew his assignment by cheating to his right when he should have picked up Tyler Eifert on the go route, so there’s really no need to elaborate on it. He added some missed tackles to go with somewhat of a rough night.
  • The Steelers’ interior triangle broke down on Giovani Bernard’s touchdown run. By triangle, I of course refer to the nose tackle and the inside linebackers. The personnel on this play included Al Woods, Williams, and Lawrence Timmons. Woods was beaten off the snap by the right guard, who used his shoulder to push the nose tackle out of the play far too easily, while the linebackers were easily handled by the center and right tackle before it was too late.
  • It was really disappointing to see Jerricho Cotchery drop that pass, especially after I’d just written about how reliable he was in the first game. The drop came on a second and seven play that likely would have converted a first down, and helped stall the team’s offensive momentum.
  • Steve McLendon got manhandled on the opening play of the second quarter on a second and one run right up the middle. He was knocked off his feet immediately by the center, and then the right guard made sure to keep him out of the play by holding his arm. That is a penalty, of course, but McLendon was out of the play already. His being knocked out of position made Vince Williams look worse than he actually performed on that play as well, although he did himself no favors by overpursuing to the right.
  • Heyward will be keeping his job on nickel packages if he continues to add ball-batting ability to his resume.
  • Isaac Redman’s first carry of the game failed because DeCastro failed to secure his block on a pull to the left. Had he done so, Redman would have surely taken a wide open cutback lane. The result was DeCastro and Paulson both pulling and attempting to block the same person, neither of which do successfully, and discouraging a cutback run in the process.
  • Shamarko Thomas continues to do a nice job as a gunner on special teams. On this occasion, he did not make the tackle, but he drew a flag, which may have prevented him from making the tackle in the first place.
  • Unblocked yet again, but another week, another tackle in the backfield for Jarvis Jones.
  • Jones also seemed more comfortable in coverage and as a pass rusher this week. While going after the quarterback, he was more likely to employ a secondary move after being initially stalemated.
  • Great coverage by LaMarr Woodley to drop the tight end for no gain. That is an underrated facet of his game.
  • This game could have been a lot worse if Andy Dalton were more accurate on the night.
  • Of course, it also could have been a lot better if Roethlisberger were more accurate.
  • It’s easy to criticize the wide receiver screens when you ignore the times they work. Antonio Brown had an explosive play on his hands if he could have stayed on his feet.
  • Nice of Derek Moye to show that he can do exactly what the Steelers would have been asking Plaxico Burress to do this year.
  • Jarvis Jones followed up that touchdown with a big special teams tackle at the 15. He forced a fair catch earlier in the game.
  • The Steelers spent all but one play on the final drive of the half in the dime, or the ‘quarter’ defense, with Robert Golden as the third safety, although in reality Troy Polamalu was effectively playing inside linebacker on some of those snaps.
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