Steelers Vs. Panthers Game Rewind: First Half

By Alex Kozora

Game notes and observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 3 37-19 victory against the Carolina Panthers.

First Half

– Kick return unit: Front five: Shamarko Thomas, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, and Antwon Blake. Next two were Michael Palmer and Matt Spaeth. Wedge made up of Will Johnson and Stephon Tuitt. LeGarrette Blount the upback for Markus Wheaton, again filling in for the injured Dri Archer.

– First snap is a packaged play. Run/pass option for Ben Roethlisberger, who throws a quick screen to Antonio Brown. Brown with a “nasty”, or heavily reduced split, speeding up the play.


– Housekeeping purposes for when I inevitably have trouble remembering after the season. Cody Wallace started for Ramon Foster at LG.

– Tight ends doing work on this Power O. Matt Spaeth asked to down block the defensive end, lined head up against #89. Not like he’s shaded a gap down and it’s easy to seal.

And we again see Heath Miller’s ability to set his hips. Works to the second level, turns his hips to seal the defender (Luke Kuechly) and creates the lane. Don’t care how good of a linebacker you are. Once a tight end has walled you off like you’ll see below, you’ve lost. Le’Veon Bell runs for 11.




– Working off that, the team throws off a Power O look. Panthers not fooled but I like the concept. Get the defenders to read false keys and cheat to the run.

Probably would have been more convincing had the Panthers not blitzed Thomas DeCoud. Bell forced to focus on picking him up more than selling the playaction. Linebackers see that and know it’s pass.


– One of many examples of Bell’s ability to jump out of one hole and into another. Moving really well laterally. Jumps to the open “A” gap and explodes through the lane. Runs away from Kuechly filling the closed “A”. Gain of eight.

– The pitfall of Cody Wallace. Not an athlete. As you’ll see throughout, he can’t be relied on to execute any second level blocks.

Attempts to combo block and work to Kuechly. Not quick enough to stick and the All-Pro linebacker runs across the field to fill and make the tackle on Bell. If you’re Wallace, you can’t let the defender cross your face like that.




– Punt coverage. Michael Palmer, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, Sean Spence, Will Allen. Robert Golden the upback. Antwon Blake and Shamarko Thomas the gunners.

– The Panthers doing what they do well on offense. Fake the draw out of the gun to get the linebackers to bite, have the No. 2 receiver run a flat route to carry the flat defender – Troy Polamalu – to open up the slant.




– Steelers in Cover 1 on a Panthers’ screen during their first possession. Kelvin Benjamin bending his route across the field, taking Cortez Allen along with him. Left side of the field is open. Funny to talk about how bad Jarvis Jones got leveled but there’s nothing he can do.



Should be pointed out how far across the field Ryan Shazier, who made the tackle, ran. Covered a lot of ground very quickly. Here he is roughly at the point of Stewart’s catch. Shows football IQ but taking a proper angle to the football.


Lawrence Timmons showing a lot of strength to hold onto big ‘ol Mike Tolbert with one knee on the ground. Holds on until help arrives. All upper body strength.



– 2nd and nine, Panthers ball. Cam Newton locks onto his primary receiver. Misses the receiver in the flats who they had come across the formation pre-snap. Pass falls incomplete.


– Another instance of Cody Wallace’s lack of athleticism though I find more fault with the team here than I do Wallace. They have to know he can’t make this block. One tech shaded to the inside and Wallace isn’t given a chip. So of course the DT wins inside, penetrates, and blows the play up. Schematically, it never stood a chance.




– I really like Justin Brown’s effort run blocking here. The play is a toss away from him but that doesn’t deter 15, blocking hard off the snap. Brown’s efforts are rewarded when Bell cuts it back and Brown helps lets Bell turn upfield. Meaningless Antonio Brown hold calls it back but nonetheless, JB showing his pride in run blocking.



– New wrinkle in the Steelers’ screen. Get the RB involved. Bell releases from the backfield into the flats to throw a block on this bubble to Antonio Brown.


– Proper run fill by the Steelers on this stretch concept. Panthers’ left guard couldn’t cut Steve McLendon backside, who shows excellent pursuit and makes the tackle from behind.



– Punt return unit. Double-vice jammers to each side. Antwon Blake/Darrius Heyward-Bey to one side, Shamarko Thomas/Brice McCain to the other. Others: Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Will Johnson, Robert Golden, and Ryan Shazier. Antonio Brown the PR.

– DHB’s lone target that resulted in pass interference. He was the lone receiver in 13 personnel (1 RB, 3 TE).

– Again, can’t have any second level blocks with Wallace involved. Tries to work to Thomas Davis. If he seals, perhaps for even a moment, Bell could have a big run. Instead, he is late and Davis is free. Bell is forced to bounce the run to the sideline and runs himself out of bounds. If Wallace executes, Bell can probably split the LB and CB up the alley.




– Check out Le’Veon Bell’s ankle flexibility on this cut. Jukes DeCoud out of his shoes.


– Panthers sugar the “A” gaps to force the offensive line to pinch. Winds up that Heath Miller is solo on defensive end Mario Addison. Miller doubles over, Addison slips past, and crunches Ben. Nearly a fumble.




– Kick coverage, L-R. Cortez Allen, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Terence Garvin, Ryan Shazier, Shaun Suisham, Sean Spence, Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, Darrius Heyward-Bey, William Gay.

– Wrinkle in kick coverage. Start with a 5×5 look. But on a couple kickoffs, including the one below, they’ll roll a player from one side to the other, the direction the ball is being kicked it. Turns into a 6×4 stack. In this instance, they do it with Sean Spence, who makes the tackle.



– I know he is the center and knows the snap count, although he has to take the extra moment to snap the ball while everyone else gets off the line, but check out the quickness and first step by Maurkice Pouncey. Engaged with his block before anyone else is. He and David DeCastro create a lane for LeGarrette Blount. 15 yard run.



– 3rd and six 30 yard grab by Antonio Brown. Panthers show two high look pre-snap but rotate to single high post, with the far hash safety rotating to the top. Means there’s no longer any threat of safety help on Antonio Brown, running down the slot.



Wonderful grab by AB too. Check it out on one of the TV replays.


Looked like wide receivers’ coach Richard Mann was amped after this one, pounding his chest on the sideline.

– All-22 unfortunately doesn’t show any more definitive angle of what happened on Markus Wheaton’s touchdown that was called back.

– Field goal protection unit from L-R. Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, Kelvin Beachum, David DeCastro, Greg Warren, Cody Wallace, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Matt Spaeth.

– Know it’s minor here on this field goal but Matt Spaeth gets overextended trying to block on the edge. Doesn’t move his feet at all and the defender blows by.


– So we never forget McLendon abusing Ryan Kalil here. Strong hands, leverage, pushing the center back before swimming over and sacking Newton.

– Kudos to Mike Mitchell for staying on his feet versus this cut block by the left guard. Makes the tackle. The left guard appears to be pretty mad and ends up pushing Brett Keisel out of frustration at the very end of the play.



– Watch Roethlisberger go through his reads on this play. You can count the progression off in your head. One…two…three…four, ball out. As soon as he goes to his fourth read, the ball is out right as Antonio Brown is breaking on his route. That is timing.

– Compared to last week, Marcus Gilbert holding his hands up much higher and shooting them quicker. Example below. Able to anchor against this bull.


– This has nothing to do with a lack of athleticism. Just poor technique by Wallace. Initial post step to his left.

The three tech slants inside. Wallace needs to push off that outside foot, slide and plant on the inside (right) reach the midpoint of the tackle, shoot and stick. But the right foot never lands and he doesn’t generate any power. Winds up turning and opening his hips. Somehow able to stick but it’s dangerous living.




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