Steelers Versus Packers – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • The opening kickoff set the tone for what would be another rough day for the kickoff coverage unit—the second week in a row. The unit nearly lost the Steelers the game at the end.
  • That was surprisingly only Lawrence Timmons’s second sack of the season. He normally has around a half-dozen by year’s end.
  • By the way, that was yet another sack on third down. While the Steelers may not have had the sack total in the mid-40s that they got used to from years past, they have typically made them count. While I don’t have exact figures, it seems a disproportionately high number of their sacks have come on third down.
  • Rookie Le’Veon Bell got off to a good start on what was one of the better games of his pro career, despite his first career fumble and a couple of passes that he could have had. The Steelers handed it off to him on two of the first three plays of the game, and both times he beat Sam Shields for the first down around the left edge.
  • When it comes to Matt Spaeth, I don’t care what Pro Football Focus has to say about his run blocking. For the second straight game, they’ve given him a very poor grade as a run blocker, which I simply do not see when I watch the tape. He’s been nothing but an asset since returning, and not just relative to the quality of run blocking of the other backup tight ends.
  • The Steelers had Cortez Allen playing off quite a bit during the game, perhaps respecting the Packers’ ability to hit the deep play even without Aaron Rodgers.
  • Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. On the same drive that playing deep allowed him to get a high tip on a ball in the end zone, he earlier helped allow a long reception by getting picked off on a running back screen.
  • This was my first time watching Eddie Lacy this season, and I came away impressed. He finds small holes and hits them hard. It works for his skill set.
  • Of course, Bell is no slouch either, as he helped the Steelers storm back after the Packers’ first score, ripping off a long run to get the drive started.
  • On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown running down the seam for 36 yards down to the 13-yard line. The deep ball had been off a bit lately, so it was good to see that.
  • Bell’s running near the goal line was impressive yet again, but the drive ended through the air this time.
  • Smart move by Emmanuel Sanders to use the elements against the Packers in tight quarters, making a sharp cut in the end zone, knowing that with the slick surface, the defensive back wouldn’t be able to mimic the redirection without losing his balance. The corner went down and Sanders was left open for an easy touchdown.
  • That touchdown—Sanders’ sixth on the year—was the 24th caught by a wide receiver this year. No other group of wide receivers in team history had ever caught that many in a season, though a few caught 23.
  • Remember, Jerricho Cotchery has nine himself, while Brown has eight. With Derek Moye and Sanders’ six, that’s 24 of Roethlisberger’s 27 touchdown passes, or almost 90 percent of them.
  • Rookie Vince Williams is better working downhill than up. On consecutive plays he let a receiver get by him dropping into coverage and then made a nice stop of Lacy for a short gain.
  • Pretty much a free sack for Jason Worilds. You could see that he was battling himself most of the game.
  • Another long return for Brown on punt returns. As I wrote earlier this week, he’s been among the best in the league in that area this year.
  • Shamarko Thomas needs to have better awareness than that on special teams, running into Brown.
  • Poor Kelvin Beachum got caught peeking inside and let Clay Matthews right by him for a sack. It made his day look worse than it was.
  • Bad angle by Allen on a James Jones reception, reminiscent of the Greg Jennings touchdown earlier this year. Allen needs to work on his angles when it comes to open-field tackling, apparently.
  • Chris Carter lost contain on his side, allowing Lacy to cut back for a 14-yard touchdown. He only had Ike Taylor at the goal line to worry about, whom he corkscrewed over.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, however, let the Steelers try to tie the game up before the half with a great return past the 50.
  • Some people want to question the utility of every millisecond of the play clock on late-half situations. Others seem to want to sweep the whole issue under the rug. Can we have some middle ground, please? Settling for a field goal on third down with a timeout in your pocket doesn’t make you a complete moron with no sense of game management, but it’s also not something that can’t be openly discussed.
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