By Alex Kozora
An All-22 primer from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 31-10 loss against the Cleveland Browns.
– What led Ben Roethlisberger to miss so often yesterday? Chicken or the egg argument. Was it Roethlisberger missing his spots or receivers that couldn’t separate? Never see #7 miss that bad and pardon the cliché, never get into a rhythm. Heard some people point out he was locking onto his first read. Let’s see if there’s truth to that.
– Why did Antonio Brown’s first catch occur so late in the game? Didn’t have his first snag until late in the first half. It was obvious the team made it a point to attack Markus Wheaton against Buster Skrine but did the Browns just do a good job of taking 84 away or did the Steelers never look his way?
– Although the Steelers weren’t terrible on the ground, 4.3 yards per carry, they never got the push you’d expect working against a Browns’ unit missing three defensive lineman. Expected Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro to look a little better. But on first glance, it’s difficult to judge lineman.
– Each week, I feel a little more convinced Heath Miller’s run blocking has slipped off. He still understands angles better than any tight end and does a consistently superb job of setting his hips but when asked to base block or move in space, he’s struggling. Matt Spaeth needs to play more and the Steelers may want to start running behind him.
– Is this the dagger game to Cam Thomas? He’s in an awful situation – forced into action against a scheme he isn’t apt at defending – but there is only so much you can suffer before you have to make a change. Unfortunately, there aren’t many solutions. Especially if Steve McLendon is forced to miss any time. Perhaps give Daniel McCullers a look but I don’t know how much it will help. He moves well for his size but 352 pounds can only move so quickly. And once that weight gets going, it doesn’t stop.
– Stephon Tuitt’s snaps surely shot up following McLendon’s injury. Let’s see how he handled himself against a ZBS. To get an idea of what he could offer next week against the Houston Texans, another zone heavy team.
– And as a whole, the run defense fell apart after a fantastic start. Losing McLendon was a big reason but I doubt it was the only factor. What else changed from the first half to the second? Zone blocking is a headache to defend and can wear defenses down as they get tired and struggle to move laterally and maintain gap integrity.
– What frustrates me perhaps more than anything else are the boot/playaction that tore up the Steelers’ defense again. Felt like there were a lot of tells, such as wide receiver splits – that should’ve been an alert for playaction. The Browns’ offense is not complicated. More window dressing than actual execution. Steelers could never get ahead of the train. Always a step behind.
But watching it live, it isn’t easy to say with certainty what happened on those splash plays. When I put on the tape, that’s the first place I’m going.
– I said Jason Worilds needed to have the best game of his life. It appears he fell well short of that.
– I was initially impressed with the play of Sean Spence and Lawrence Timmons. Both did a great job in their run fills. Even when things got ugly, let’s see if they still played at a relatively high level.
– Troy Polamalu came on strong early and I even remarked that he was making some “vintage” plays. Then he seemed to fade away, including whiffing on a tackle on the goalline that led to another Browns’ TD.
– Initial feeling is that Mike Mitchell played well. Separated player from ball at least twice patrolling centerfield. That’s what he was known for and that’s what he’s showing.
– Any special teams shakeup with Shamarko Thomas out. Know Ross Ventrone started at gunner. We’ll see how the other units looked. Minor and certainly not the focal point but worth filing away anyway.