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Steelers vs Browns First Half Notes And Observations

Below are some notes and observations from the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 30-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

  • It shouldn’t be surprising, based on what we’ve seen during the preseason, but the Steelers opened up with three receivers on the field, including Justin Brown in his first career game. it was a two tight end set from an empty backfield.
  • On the second play of the game, the Steelers put every wide receiver they had on the field. David DeCastro threw a block to help clear the way for a long catch and run for Antonio Brown.
  • Two plays later, it was Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster blocking downfield for a long gain on a screen to Le’Veon Bell.
  • The right side of the line got great push, and Heath Miller threw a clean cut block, to get Bell to the edge on the following play for 10 yards.
  • A wheel route to LeGarrette Blount is a good play call because nobody expects it. The problem is that it’s also a bad play call because it probably won’t work.
  • On third and goal from the 14-yard line, the Browns dropped eight in coverage. Paul Kruger just bull rushed Marcus Gilbert. The right tackle had a rough opening game in comparison to his strong preseason, so I’ll give him a pass for now.
  • Sean Spence with the first special teams tackle. Welcome to the regular season, Sean.
  • On third and one, Ike Taylor took a wide angle to the fullback and allowed the first down.
  • Browns tight end Jordan Cameron must have caught Lawrence Timmons sleeping because he beat him with straight speed on a go route. Should have been six points.
  • On the next play, the Steelers moved Cam Thomas to nose tackle, Cameron Heyward to left end, and put Brett Keisel on the field at right end. Jarvis Jones slammed into the receiver in the backfield on an end around, but he bounced off. He needs to make that play.
  • After an illegal shift, Keisel showed why the Steelers re-signed him, getting pressure on the quarterback to force an incompletion. It was a free rush, but he knows how to close after 13 years.
  • On third down, the Steelers went to their nickel, but they put Keisel and Heyward on the right side of the line and moved both outside linebackers to the right side. Trying everything.
  • Miller whiffed on Kruger on second and six on the Steelers’ second play of the next drive, resulting in no gain.
  • Two plays later, Pouncey pulled off right guard, but failed to occupy the free rusher, resulting in a loss.
  • Third and seven, what do you do? Throw to the first-time starter at wide receiver on a go route, of course. Markus Wheaton got past the first-round rookie cornerback and showed excellent awareness and control to get his feet down for a 40-yard bomb. That’s two plays of 40 or more yards on the first two drives.
  • On third and one from the seven-yard line, the right side of the line crashed down hard inside, Miller sealed the edge rusher, and Wheaton and Brown both stuck to their blocks to send Blount to the goal line unblocked for the touchdown.
  • William Gay with the excellent special teams tackle on the ensuing kickoff at the 14.
  • Steelers back to their base and starting personnel. Stretch run to the left, Jones does a great job against the tight end to tackle the back for a loss. He bit a bit on a reverse on the next play and wasn’t in position to defend it.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had all day to throw when he forced a sideline pass to Bell that was intercepted. I’m sure nobody is more annoyed about it than he is. Although it is his second dumb interception of the year going back to the preseason.
  • Jones’ sack was against the tight end and took about four seconds.
  • Bell’s slighter build is clearly evident on the Steelers’ next drive, catching the corner for seven yards on first down. He cut inside for another nice gain on the next play as well.
  • Four of the first five plays of the drive went to Bell, including a long reception. The sixth play was all Ben being Ben, finding Brown from 35 yards in the end zone on the run.
  • I just want to emphasize how much better Brown’s punt return was before the fly kick to the face. He fielded the punt with pressure in his face, made the first gunner bite hard on a false step to the left, did the same to the second gunner crossing the field, switching sides of the field, sped through a gauntlet of two other Browns defenders in tight space, then came out of that faking out yet another would-be tackler. Will Allen should have taken it out of Brown’s hands and blocked the punter himself.
  • Justin Brown took a big hit after his first career catch for 12 yards and held on. Bell weaved his way through traffic for a 38-yard touchdown on the next play. Antonio Brown was down the field throwing a shoulder into the last defender.
  • Timmons overran a carry from Ben Tate that helped lead to a 25-yard gain.
  • On second and nine, Jason Worilds had a chance at Terrance West in the backfield, but the rookie put the moves on him, turning a six-yard loss into a six-yard gain.
  • Brad Wing’s first punt traveled about 57 yards and was returned for no gain by the time the returner stepped forward from backpedaling after the catch.
  • Worilds made short work of the tight end on first down for his first sack of the season.
  • Justin Brown didn’t have the best day on special teams.
  • I like the smarts from Roethlisberger at the end of the first half once he saw nothing was opening. Knowing he had a timeout in his pocket, he took off running to make it an easier field goal attempt.
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