Earlier this week, we took a look at some examples of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense facing third-down situations in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. The Steelers were in the bottom third of the league a year ago in stopping opposing offenses on third down, so it’s clearly an area for improvement this year.
The aforementioned examples showed where the defense failed to do its job, but only one of those instances came against the first-team defense, who didn’t play much longer than the opening drive. The Steelers did see some success on the key down against the Panthers, as the example below will demonstrate.
The Panthers actually went one for three on first down on their opening drive against the Steelers’ starters. The first third-down attempt was stopped short of the first-down marker, but Carolina—according to the officials—was able to convert on fourth down.
Former Steeler Jerricho Cotchery was lined up across from Antwon Blake, who was playing off coverage. Derek Anderson took advantage of the cushion, hitting his receiver on a curl to the sideline, but Blake was able to force him out of bounds two yards shy of the first down.
At the end of the opening drive, Anderson looked for his big rookie wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, in the end zone. Ike Taylor was in on the tight coverage on the play from the 15-yard line. Feeling his way down the sideline, Taylor turned to the ball at the five. He seemed to have gotten tangled in Benjamin’s feet, but he was able to get his hand up to disrupt the receiver, who couldn’t make the catch.
The Panthers went three-and-out on their next two drives. On their second possession, they faced a second and two before the running game failed to deliver. On third down and one yard to go, Mike Tolbert was flushed out to the left perimeter by penetration from the defensive line. Jarvis Jones worked through the traffic to get his arms around the back and bring him down for a loss of one on the play.
On third and eight on the Panthers’ third possession, pressure from Arthur Moats forced Anderson to hurry his reads, and William Gay was able to get in front of the pass for the break up to force a punt.
Late in the first half, with all second-team personnel in the game, reserve linebacker Terence Garvin had strong coverage on the tight end down the field, but the play was made again by Moats, whose pressure again forced the quarterback to hurry up, and it resulted in a poorly aimed pass out of his target’s reach.