Steelers vs Panthers Second Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations of the second half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 37-19 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night.

  • Once again, the Steelers opened the half in their base defense. Much unlike the first half, however, they began missing tackles. Cam Thomas and Ryan Shazier were both guilty on a first-down run by Jonathan Stewart that netted about 13 yards after contact.
  • The defense was much tighter on the second play, working down the line to stop a run for a loss, but the Panthers were flagged for holding anyway. This is the play on which Lawrence Timmons was pushed backed into Shazier’s knee.
  • Unfortunately, Cortez Allen was flagged in coverage on Kelvin Benjamin for illegal contact, resulting in an automatic first down. Allen then just avoided an open-field tackle on the following play, although another hold negated it.
  • Cam Newton tried to scramble out of the pocket on first and 20, but Sean Spence was there to make the shoestring tackle to prevent a breakaway run as he was coming in to blitz.
  • Brett Keisel pressured Newton on second down into a bad pass, and Jarvis Jones, possibly unknowingly, ran into his arm as he threw on third down after beating the left tackle. His wrist slammed awkwardly against Keisel’s leg, and we know what happened after that.
  • Already in the red zone, the Steelers opened in a three tight end set, including Will Johnson. Le’Veon Bell could only find room for two yards, however. After picking up four more, Ben Roethlisberger threw over Heath Miller’s head in the end zone.
  • But the Steelers were saved by the Panthers jumping offside on the field goal attempt, and Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown in the far right corner of the end zone on the next play.
  • The quarterback was eying down Markus Wheaton to the left side, giving a hard pump fake, which allowed Brown to slip behind his defender as Roethlisberger sidearmed an arcing pass at the back pylon.
  • I wonder how many touchdowns Roethlisberger has watched from the ground.
  • It was the Steelers’ first touchdown since the second quarter of the season opener.
  • Timmons was attempting to assist Ike Taylor in bringing down Kelvin Benjamin, but as the 6’5” receiver lunged forward, it stretched the cornerback’s arm right into the linebacker’s target zone, cracking his forearm. That’s three starters gone in less than five minutes.
  • Timmons and William Gay both nearly came up with an interception later on the drive, but Allen was flagged—again—for illegal contact anyway.
  • Thomas continued to log time at nose tackle and got a hit on Newton as he threw on the next play.
  • Following a knifing run stop by Spence, the Steelers went to the nickel for the first time with Taylor out, moving Gay to the slot and bringing on 5’9” Antwon Blake to play outside. He was targeted right away for a first down, but it was defended well, and he nearly stripped the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
  • Once again looking his way, Blake was able to keep Benjamin from bringing the ball in in the end zone on first down. Newton’s third-down pass was too hot for Jason Avant and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal.
  • Following a pair of penalties and a reception for a loss of two, the Steelers faced second and 22 at their own eight. Kelvin Beachum drew his defender wide as the rest of the line moved to the right. There was an obvious cutback lane, but Bell saw a crease between David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey and turned on the jets, bursting through the seam for 81 yards, keeping pace with Thomas DeCoud for most of the way.
  • LeGarrette Blount came in to spell him, gaining four yards on first down. Antonio Brown gave the Steelers first and goal from the one, upon which third tight end Michael Palmer dropped a touchdown pass and was flagged for offensive pass interference on the same play.
  • Fortunately for him, Roethlisberger found Brown cutting open across the field for a walk-in touchdown two plays later.
  • On the Panthers’ first play after the touchdown, Greg Olsen was able to spin around Jason Worilds for four yards after the catch and a first down. With Thomas gradually collapsing the pocket on the following play, Newton was patient in finding Benjamin and floating him the ball for a big gain.
  • On Arthur Moats’ sack, the Steelers stood up their line, with Cameron Heyward actually dropping in coverage. They showed five at the snap and rushed four, including Spence pushing the left tackle. Moats stacked and shed the left guard, grabbed Newton by the jersey to contain him, and then brought him down for his first sack as a Steeler.
  • On the following play, the Steelers moved to the nickel, lining up Keisel and Thomas to the left and Worilds and Moats to the right. Blake was in the slot on Benjamin with the Panthers running a bunch formation. With a clean pocket, Newton eventually checked down to his back, but it was short of a first down.
  • The fourth and two pass to Benjamin in front of Allen wasn’t, however.
  • Allen was beaten by Olsen in poor coverage for a 35-yard touchdown on the next play, with the corner taking a poor angle to make matters worse.
  • The Steelers went three-and-out, but returner Philly Brown muffed the punt, recovered it, then had the ball knocked out again by Shamarko Thomas, recovered for a touchdown in the end zone by Robert Golden.
  • The Steelers played in the nickel for all of the next drive, with Heyward knocking Newton out of the game on third down with a shot to the ribs.
  • The Panthers downed the ball at the two, but a completion to Wheaton on third down gave the Steelers some breathing room.
  • After a three-yard loss from Blount, Roethlisberger found Heath Miller over Luke Kuechly for a big gain to the Steelers’ 41.
  • After which Blount promptly rattled off a 50-yard run, pounding it into the end zone two plays later over DeCoud for his second touchdown of the season.
  • Spence missed a tackle on Mike Tolbert to allow a first down on second and one, but the back left the game with a knee injury on the next play.
  • On third and nine, Derek Anderson found Brenton Bersin for 29 yards working against Gay in the slot, then found Benjamin over Blake’s head from 35-yard out for a touchdown. There wasn’t much he could do that he didn’t. Gay broke up the two-point conversion attempt to Benjamin to keep it a three-possession game.
  • The Steelers ran out the clock with Blount grinding out 42 yards. By this point Bruce Gradkowski and Chris Hubbard were playing.
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