Steelers Versus Raiders – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • Just about everybody ends up looking bad on the opening play touchdown for Terrelle Pryor. The three worst offenders, however, were Ryan Clark, Lawrence Timmons, and Troy Polamalu. LaMarr Woodley, I suspect, was carrying out his assignment. The defense as a whole should have been better prepared for the option, however, especially after having faced it some earlier this year with Geno Smith and last year with Robert Griffin III.
  • Of the few highlights on defense was, again, William Gay helping to separate the ball early on a third and two play to force a punt.
  • If anybody was wondering about how tough the Baltimore Ravens defense is, just look at the success, or lack thereof, the Steelers were able to have on the ground against the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens were soft.
  • It’s always easy, but lazy, for beat writers to Tweet out their mockery of every wide receiver screen pass that is not successful when they willfully ignore every time a screen pass works—that is, if they realize that the screen passes that actually work are screens. Do they always work? No. But just because it doesn’t work when you mock it doesn’t mean it was bad play-calling.
  • Zoltan Mesko got penalized for not cleanly fielding the punt, yes, and maybe it will help send him on his way out of town. But David Paulson deserves as much if not more blame on the tipped punt.
  • Against most other quarterbacks, LaMarr Woodley surely would have had a sack or two in this game, but Pryor’s athleticism saved him on multiple occasions. With the way he was able to create space in the pocket against the Steelers, I find it hard to imagine he could have been sacked nine times the game before.
  • It looks as though the Raiders’ first Wildcat snap was the exact mirror formation that the Steelers used last week. Only the Raiders were more successful with it.
  • On Darren McFadden’s first touchdown, Vince Williams gets caught leaning just a bit too far inside in order to make a play after McFadden bounces outside. He ends up carrying the safeties into the end zone with him.
  • After falling down 14-0, the Steelers did not fall into the 11 personnel as their base set as I expected them to. They mixed it up a number of times with 12 and 21 looks, including using Mike Adams at tight end again.
  • Le’Veon Bell had more success through the air than on the ground. That is because the offensive line was not able to create any space for him this week. Give him space to start out with and he can make something happen.
  • That tackle on Heath Miller on his right knee was just as unnerving as Derek Moye getting upended and coming down on his head last week. Yet both made the play and sprung right back up.
  • On the play after Miller’s catch, the linebacker beat Will Johnson to the hole, which is why Bell had to try to bounce the run outside. I do not blame Kelvin Beachum too much for not hanging on to the defensive end there, as the run was supposed to go inside rather than outside, and thus was not playing in that direction.
  • Another screen pass followed the play after. If Emmanuel Sanders gets a better block, Antonio Brown could have had something going along the sideline.
  • On the next play, the Steelers try to pull Fernando Velasco in order to pick up the blitzing defensive back. It doesn’t work out. Ben Roethlisberger is forced to rush his throw.
  • On the play, Roethlisberger and Sanders are not on the same page, it appears. Roethlisberger evidently expected Sanders to continue his route. These communication issues have happened far too often this season for a quarterback-receiver tandem that has been together for over three years.
  • Paulson was not too far off from letting another punt get blocked on the next try.
  • On Oakland’s next drive, the Raiders convert a third and one after the center turns Steve McLendon out of the hole right up the middle. Had McFadden beaten Ryan Clark, he would have scored. But Timmons does not take on the play properly. Instead of occupying the fullback and trying to influence the back to bounce the run outside, as the Raiders did to Bell, he attacks the fullback on his outside shoulder, which, with McLendon out of the play, opens up an embarrassingly large hole for a third and short scenario.
  • The Steelers are lucky that Pryor was as bad with his arm as he was good with his feet. But the Raiders had so much success on the ground that it did not matter. Pryor only threw 19 passes, but two were intercepted. The first one was totally on him for heaving a ball awkwardly under duress.
  • On the sack on which Le’Veon Bell had two rushers come his way, I cannot help but wonder if, had he taken the closer rusher, Roethlisberger would have had the time and awareness to dump the ball off to Johnson, who was wide open.
  • In reality, however, it probably should have been Marcus Gilbert picking up the second blitzer, but with David DeCastro also not recognizing the blitz, he was unable to abandon the defensive end.
  • The Steelers, at least, were able to get a field goal off the turnover, however. And after the Raiders bobbled the ensuing kickoff, Pittsburgh was able to pin them down at the 10.
  • What an odd decision by Roethlisberger to throw a ball away on third down…after he crossed the line of scrimmage. Perhaps he realized after he started throwing that he crossed the line and just heaved it. He was actually not as far beyond the line as it initially seemed, however. Remember, his entire body must be beyond.
  • How different this game could have been had Antwon Blake not gotten a fingertip on the failed punt fielding. The Steelers would have been in field goal range. Instead, the Raiders scored their third touchdown of the half on the drive.
  • The Raiders ran the ball in the Steelers’ face that drive. On second and five, McLendon gets blown off the ball and is forced to make a leaping tackle after a seven-yard gain up the middle.
  • Darren McFadden knows how to run the Wildcat.
  • Cortez Allen definitely got a gift. There was nothing wrong with the throw other than the receiver not hanging on to it.
  • I’m not saying Shaun Suisham lost the game with his two missed field goals. I’m just saying the Steelers lost by three points.
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