Steelers Versus Vikings – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • The Steelers were off to a strong start on their kick return coverage this season, and it continued into this game, with Shamarko Thomas making Cordarrelle Patterson pay for taking back the opening kickoff from nine yards deep, short of the 20.
  • Likewise, the running defense got off to a fine start during this game, with Lawrence Timmons coming up to plug up Adrian Peterson on his first carry, but we all know that didn’t last.
  • Ike Taylor could have had two interceptions this game. He didn’t get any. They would not have been easy plays, but somebody has to start making some of them.
  • Cameron Heyward gets yet another batted pass at the line, this time on third down to force a field goal. He is showing the coaches no reason that he should not be one the field on obvious passing downs.
  • The Steelers’ first play of the game was almost foiled by an unrecognized blitz, but Ben Roethlisberger was able to dodge the blitzing linebacker. Thanks to a blitz pickup by Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger at least had time enough to find Heath Miller for some positive yardage.
  • The Steelers lined up Will Johnson as a tight end on the first play as well. They have been doing this with some frequency the past two games.
  • Also in on the first two plays was Markus Wheaton, and the second pass went to him on a screen. Marcus Gilbert’s block helped him gain the first down.
  • Meanwhile, Miller completely buried his defender into the grass. He was embarrassed enough on the ground that he felt it necessary to shove an arm up in his chest, to which Miller responded with a shake of his head. Kind of a beautiful sight, honestly.
  • On Bell’s first carry, Emmanuel Sanders was too late coming in to block safety Harrison Smith, and because of that, the play gained just a yard.
  • Other than the free blitzer, the offensive line gave Roethlisberger a nice pocket on his third down pass that went sailing far out of bounds. Maybe the quarterback is getting the phantom jitters.
  • Again, Thomas does a good job on special teams. This time he is prevented from making the tackle due to a hold, which calls back a very long return.
  • On the long Greg Jennings touchdown, Cortez Allen should know that he has to watch for a spin, but he comes in too hard to the outside of the field, which gives Jennings plenty of room to maneuver around him. Using the end zone camera, it is also more clear to me what William Gay was doing. Robert Golden was behind him, and instead of covering the inner part of the field, he went too far outside, where Gay was defending. With both defenders drawn outside, it was an easy cutback for a veteran receiver, who took it the distance.
  • The first play disrupted by Jared Allen courtesy of Mike Adams: first and ten from the 41. Roethlisberger fakes a handoff to Bell and runs a boot to his right. Allen is right behind him because he jogs right past Adams. Roethlisberger has to do a 180 and just throws it away.
  • The play after was what seemed like the first deep pass completion to Sanders all year. The Steelers have been trying to connect on this play all season. Even on this one Sanders barely gets an inch of separation, but it’s a near perfect ball.
  • Is it possible that David Johnson can actually be a receiving threat? Thus far, the Steelers have been able to get him the ball in mostly wide open space, but he has done his part to elude tacklers after the fact.
  • Bell’s first touchdown may not happen without Will Johnson. Lined up on the line once again, he is able to push a rushing linebacker away right at Bell’s feet in the backfield. Good pickup. Of course the tight ends, and Bell himself, did their parts to make this play happen as well. Bell squeezes up to the line to draw up the safeties before bouncing it outside.
  • The defensive series after the touchdown was excellent. On first down, Jason Worilds sets the defensive right edge, forcing Peterson to cut back into Brett Keisel, who makes the stop for no gain. On second down, he is wrestled down by Steve McLendon for a short gain. The third down pass is defended by Gay to force a three and out.
  • Kelvin Beachum came in for Mike Adams on the ensuing drive late in the first quarter, but Adams really had not done poorly up to this point.
  • He was not able to break a significant one, but Bell really looks like a weapon for screens.
  • The second play that Allen disrupted courtesy of Adams: first and ten from the 23. Allen once again runs right outside of him and Adams has to tackle him to get the pass off, which is of course a hold.
  • Zoltan Mesko really has not been much of an improvement if at all over Drew Butler.
  • I don’t entirely know what Vince Williams was doing on Peterson’s long touchdown run. It seemed as though he was trying to help out Ziggy Hood, who was knocked to the ground.
  • Play number three for Allen: second and 10 from the 14. He easily swats Adams’ hands away to get around him for the first sack.
  • Le’Veon Bell gained six yards after contact on a two-yard gain. Make of that what you will.
  • Jared Allen’s second half-sack can hardly be blamed on Adams. Ramon Foster pushed his man right into Adams, disengaging from Allen, who was free to pursue after that.
  • Allen’s third, full sack had Adams spinning around after having his hands batted away. Under different circumstances, Roethlisberger might have gotten the ball away, but this was third and goal, which means either touchdown or field goal. The play doesn’t end without a touchdown or a sack on the end of it. Not all sacks are created equal.
  • The kick return coverage showed cracks on the ensuing kickoff, and it seemed to open the floodgates for more success for the Vikings in the second half on returns.
  • The first down fumble…just a symptom of the way the game was going. A freak thing that ultimately led to a field goal.
  • William Gay made a nice stop on third down to force that field goal attempt.
  • I don’t entirely understand why the Steelers were content to run out the clock after getting a touchback, especially after getting a good run on first down with a timeout in hand.
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