By Matthew Marczi
Even without the services of Aaron Rodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers must still be cautious of the big play when they face the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Matt Flynn tomorrow evening.
Despite lacking arguably the best quarterback in the game, the Packers continue to employ a pass-heavy attack nearly two-thirds of the time—and more importantly, they continue to pile up the big plays.
Last week alone, five different players caught a pass for more than 20 yards against an admittedly below average Dallas Cowboys defense. Running back Eddie Lacy also threw in a 60-yard run to add to the total of explosive plays.
Last week, the Steelers felt more comfortable using their more familiar, more traditional looks, employing less of their quarters package than they have for what at least seems to be most of the season.
Of 71 total defensive snaps, for example, rookies Vince Williams and Terence Garvin combined to play 39 snaps.
The quarters package really came to prominence five weeks ago against the Detroit Lions, following the injury to Shamarko Thomas. The Steelers inserted Will Allen as the dime safety and essentially made that their primary package for the last several weeks.
With two threatening running backs and a pair of tight ends with which to concern themselves, however, the Steelers left four traditional linebackers on the field much more frequently than they have of late.
This was in spite of the fact that they jumped out to an early 24-0 lead, relegating the Cincinnati Bengals to the air for most of the game, as they forced Andy Dalton to pass nearly 50 times during the night.
Given the propensity for the Packers to stretch the field, both at the line of scrimmage and down the field, however, expect the Steelers to revert back to their more usual form of late, making frequent use of six defensive backs.
Williams and Garvin got more frequent use than of late last week not because of a sudden newfound trust in the young linebackers’ abilities; rather, it was because of who they expected them to be matched up against.
The Steelers like Garvin as a coverage linebacker; it’s also worth noting that Tyler Eifert was getting the better of Will Allen in the fourth quarter last week.
The Packers have no such tight end threats with Jermichael Finley on IR, so expect more defensive backs against the receivers this week.