Steelers vs Bills – First Half Notes And Observations

Below are some of my notes and observations from having reviewed the tape of the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.

  • I thought that Terence Garvin took a poor angle on the opening kickoff. With two other defenders near him, both to the right of the returner, he chose to split between them rather than cut off the lane, which allowed C.J. Spiller to break clear and force Shaun Suisham to tackle him. That’s clearly why he missed the extra point attempt later.
  • First of all, it was just good to see Ryan Shazier, Steve McLendon, and Troy Polamalu out there. Even with Jarvis Jones out, those three being in made a difference.
  • McLendon got excellent penetration on the first play of the game to allow Chris Carter to pick up the scraps of an easy tackle of Fred Jackson after a short gain.
  • McLendon off the field on third and two. Stephon Tuitt is currently slated to begin where Cameron Heyward did last season: replacing the left defensive end in sub-packages. It remains to be seen if he follows the same path that Heyward took last year.
  • Shazier got bullied out of the hole on a rushing play near midfield that went for eight yards. He seemed to avoid contact with the right guard leading.
  • On the next snap, Lawrence Timmons did an excelling job of absorbing fullback Frank Summers’ block, peeling off and making the tackle, even if it wasn’t enough to prevent the first down.
  • On the next play, Carter got walked up the arc and left open his side of the field for E.J. Manuel to flee for an easy five-yard gain.
  • You can just tell when it’s Polamalu making the tackle, because it’s always ferocious, as Jackson learned on that opening drive.
  • Good pursuit from behind on a running back screen on the next play by Cam Thomas to force a third and one.
  • The Steelers got a break on third down. Cortez Allen was five yards away and still in his back pedal when Manuel released the ball, but it was poorly thrown.
  • The Steelers opened in the 11 personnel and stayed there for most of the game. Dri Archer was in the slot on first down and got the ball. He had the speed to zoom past the first defender, but Markus Wheaton could not get his man blocked for long, so the play only went for a short gain.
  • Five wide on second down, the Bills run into each other. The safety took a stutter step and Antonio Brown was gone. Touchdown.
  • Nothing wrong with the snap from Luke Ingram nor the hold from Brad Wing on Suisham’s botched extra point.
  • Carter off the field for the remainder of the first-team defense’s time in the game. Arthur Moats took his place until late in the second quarter after the starters left.
  • Cam Thomas split a double team on the first play of the Bills’ next drive to make the tackle after a short gain. I like how the linemen looked back in surprise.
  • Spiller circumvented Polamalu in the backfield initially, but the veteran climbed his back in the end.
  • It shouldn’t take Mike Mitchell too long to realize that his teammates won’t take kindly to his celebrations hurting them on the field. The league is enforcing such penalties as a point of emphasis this year, so he’d better beware.
  • Pressure from Jason Worilds to the inside forced Manuel to hurry a screen to the running back. Heyward was left unblocked for the easy stop.
  • We’ve already talked about Shazier’s interception enough, but I just want to emphasize Joey Porter being unable to contain himself and coming out onto the field to give the rookie a chest bump.
  • Like any attribute, there are times that it can help you or hurt you.  But combined with his vision, Le’Veon Bell’s patience is more often than not an asset. How he wriggled his way for six yards in tight corridors in the trenches after the Shazier interception I’m still not sure I understand.
  • I can’t tell if he got caught on somebody’s foot, but Maurkice Pouncey went down on the next play, and Bell really just had to fight for whatever he could get. Two yards there was a victory.
  • On first down in the red zone, LeGarrette Blount didn’t simply lose his footing. He was shoved by Nigel Bradham, which knocked him off-balance. It’s no wonder Bradham was able to just stand there in position to try to pick the ball off.
  • Although Corey Graham showed nice instinct and speed, Lance Moore did a poor job of getting over there to block for the screen on second down. But that didn’t matter after Ben Roethlisberger’s beautiful touch pass to Wheaton in the far left corner of the end zone.
  • The Steelers defended the wide receiver screen well, this time with Ike Taylor and Moats. They see it enough in practice, of course.
  • McLendon got over-aggressive toward the end of the first quarter when his penetration left open a gap in the middle of the defense, although Heyward was held on the play.
  • Both McLendon and Worilds got pressure on Manuel to force a throwaway on the next play, however. Worilds followed it up with what should have been a sack on the next play, which was ruled intentional grounding.
  • Shazier took a wide angle on third and 27 and slipped trying to stop himself, almost allowing a first down. It was likely the difference between a field goal attempt and a punt.
  • Defenses have really been taking away Heath Miller through the first two games. Though he did come close to converting a third and long on Roethlisberger’s third and final drive.
  • Every once in a while, Polamalu reminds us all that he’s human with a missed tackle or a bad read.
  • Fred Jackson with a beautiful little juke away from Worilds. Shazier and Mitchell had to make the tackle after several more yards, but most of those yards were lateral. Good team defense.
  • On the next play, both Cams missed tackles in the backfield before the back drove into Timmons’ chest after just a gain of one yard.
  • Allen beaten a little too easily on a comeback route by Robert Woods on third and long. We’ve still yet to see anything overly exciting from him this preseason.
  • Timmons landed just a superb stick on the ball carrier on third and one after shedding a blocker. I think he’s going to be fine at the buck, folks.
  • On fourth and one, Heyward collapsed the pocket and got a hand up to tip the pass. Taylor wisely got aggressive making sure the receiver could not secure the deflection, knowing that interference could not be called after the tip.
  • Pretty much only Ramon Foster seemed to do his job on Blount’s first carry after the turnover on downs. Loss of three on the busted play.
  • Rob Blanchflower came in on the next play as a second tight end and got some push that allowed Blount forward momentum through the crack.
  • Thankfully for Landry Jones, Moore is a better tackler than he is a blocker following the second-year quarterback’s boneheaded read that led to a sloppy interception.
  • Second-team defense entered with a little over four minutes to play in the half. Moats moved over from the right side to the left, with Carter back in on the right. The notable move, however, is Daniel McCullers leapfrogging Hebron Fangupo at nose tackle.
  • Excellent play by Tuitt in his first snap in the base defense. He peeled off the block and made the tackle at the line of scrimmage against the Bills’ first-team offensive line.
  • McCullers was controlled on his first couple of plays. On third down, Antwon Blake slipped in coverage and allowed a first down.
  • Vince Williams with a missed tackle to allow another first down. McCullers not showing much in the nickel as a pass rusher.
  • Shamarko Thomas picked up where he left off on first and goal, instinctively sniffing out the running back pass to the flat and blowing up the play.
  • Cam Thomas, in on the nickel defensive line, stopped the second and goal carry. McCullers fell on the pile for good measure. To be fair, he actually flowed to the ball well.
  • Third and goal, William Gay used the sideline as an extra defender to prevent Woods from bringing in the catch in bounds.
  • Robert Golden’s fourth down stop was excellent. He had one-on-one coverage with the tight end, who used his size advantage to just push the safety back and clear a space for himself in the shallow front of the end zone. But Golden broke on the ball quickly out of Manuel’s hand and got his arm in front of the tight end’s to deflect the pass without drawing a penalty. Good way to end the half.
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