Steelers Versus Browns – Week 12 – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • Those bubble screen passes never work—except when they do. It’s so easy to complain about a particular play call when you simply ignore when they work—or don’t realize that it is what it is when it actually works. The Steelers start off the game with an effective screen to Emmanuel Sanders for a first down.
  • Great run by Le’Veon Bell two plays later, sliding through a crease for another first down.
  • Equally great play by T.J. Ward a few plays later taking Bell down one-on-one in the backfield. Bell likely has all day to run if he makes Ward miss there.
  • On the next play, Marcus Gilbert lets a tackle go by and forces Bell to cut outside. The play wouldn’t have resulted in a first down anyway, but Gilbert didn’t do nearly as well in the running game as he did in pass protection.
  • The Browns burned the Steelers on shallow crossing routes over the middle all day, whether it was backs, tight ends, or receivers. On third and five, it’s Josh Gordon beating Lawrence Timmons and William Gay to the edge for a big gain.
  • Al Woods subbed in early for Ziggy Hood after the conversion while Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward stayed in. also worth noting that, as with last week, Heyward moved from left to right end with Hood back in the lineup.
  • Third and eight on the Steelers’ next drive, a running back screen goes for seven yards. If D’Qwell Jackson doesn’t swat away Heath Miller’s blocking attempt, it’s probably a first down.
  • Great job by Jarvis Jones reading the short pass to Gordon. He probably had his best game in coverage so far.
  • Didn’t do much as a pass rusher, although he was going up against the best in the game in Joe Thomas.
  • And there’s Troy Polamalu beating Thomas at the line of scrimmage to tackle the running back from behind. He really had his best game in years against the Browns, even with a dropped interception.
  • Timmons really struggled protecting the middle of the field against the short passes in the first half.
  • Hood swam past the right guard off the snap to force a seeming throwaway that was caught, which allowed Jason Worilds to get a hit on Jason Campbell.
  • On Heyward’s sack, Jones was actually working Thomas backward, and with Heyward doing the same thing to the left guard, he ended up stepping on Thomas’ right leg, which brought Thomas to the ground and made Jones’ rush look more impressive than it actually was.
  • Great block by David DeCastro on first down to open up a hole for Bell after the Steelers were forced to start at their own three. Bell’s patience also helped open it up.
  • Jackson proceeded to break up the next two plays, including a batted pass on third down.
  • Jones got held on the Browns’ next play in the backfield, which wasn’t called, resulting in a first-down run.
  • The Browns left Worilds to be blocked by a backup tight end. Shows how much they respected him coming into the game. He easily beat the tight end on that play to force Campbell to throw on at the tight end’s feet on third down.
  • It took three receptions by Antonio Brown just for the Steelers to flip the field, as the Browns had them pinned back within their own 10 for a couple drives in a row. After regaining the field position battle, they finished the half with two scoring drives.
  • And there’s Ike Taylor missing a tackle on Josh Gordon, a foreshadowing of things to come.
  • You really need to take a close look at the stats sometimes and go back to see what the tape says about them, as not all stats are created equal. For example, some of Worilds’ pressures were soft. The play where he hurt Campbell the first time was a bootleg on which he was unblocked. It’s really just a bad play by the offense and decent speed.
  • Sanders really showed some elusiveness on those short passes. He may be better than Brown in tight quarters.
  • Of course the short pass on the first play set up the long ball to Brown on the next play. That’s why Joe Haden peaked back, allowing Brown to get separation. But the ball was underthrown anyway. Brown not only had to adjust to the underthrow, but also had to re-grip after Haden had a chance to rip the ball out.
  • Polamalu blitzed and was stoned by Alex Mack. Instead of taking the rest of the play off, he backed off and regrouped, and he ended up tackling the back down the field, ripping the ball out and recovering the fumble in the process.
  • Some key players had rebound games against the Browns starting in the field half, among them Miller and DeCastro.
  • None bigger than Polamalu, of course.
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