Steelers Vs. Browns Game Rewind – First Half

By Alex Kozora

Observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-10 loss against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.

First Half

– Kick return unit: Front five: Robert Golden, Arthur Moats, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, and Antwon Blake. Matt Spaeth and Michael Palmer continue to be the next two up. Cody Wallace and Will Johnson the wedge with LeGarrette Blount and Dri Archer in the back.

– I didn’t mind the 3rd down play to the edge. Wide side of the field and it’s open. Heath Miller is asked to step down to sell an inside run but he still should’ve been able to stick to Tashaun Gipson. Jabaal Sheard is crashing, opening up the edge. If Miller can get in the way a little bit, Bell has the first and a lot more.



– Punt coverage. Antwon Blake and Darrius Heyward-Bey, not Ross Ventrone, started at gunner. Rest of the unit. Michael Palmer, Vince Williams, Terrance Garvin, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, Sean Spence, Will Allen, and Robert Golden the upback.

Cam Heyward showing arm extension and leverage against John Greco. Liked the leg drive to in order to walk him back, collapse the pocket, shed, and sack Brian Hoyer.


– Punt return unit: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Antwon Blake are jammers to one side, Brice McCain solo to the other. Terence Garvin, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Will Johnson, Arthur Moats, Robert Golden, and Ross Ventrone round out this unit.

– Steelers used pistol and in a sense, a pony look with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Though Bell is split out wide. No fullback/running duo.



– Love me some David DeCastro. Asked to chip and then work to the second level to “catch” (stick) linebacker Christian Kirksey. Sticks for way longer than you’d expect against a linebacker looking to move laterally. Causes Kirksey to be late getting to the back and Le’Veon Bell runs for 12.




Also has the art of knowing when to release him so he doesn’t get called for holding.

– Matt Spaeth disappointingly falls off this block against the much smaller Armonty Bryant, who sheds and makes the tackle. There’s a lane had Spaeth held his block.



Antonio Brown’s pass interference against Buster Skrine was a sluggo (slant + go). Got separation as he stems his route vertical, swaps hips and puts the corner in trail.

– I get Bell wanting to take what’s available, especially in the red zone, but there are times where you have to follow your blocks. Failing to do so has consequences.

Cuts it back to hit the “A” gap between center and right guard but the flow is to the offense’s right. Because of that, right tackle Marcus Gilbert is letting his defender win inside, allowing him to seal. Since Bell cuts it inside, the defender can easily work off the block of Gilbert and make the tackle. Only a two yards gain.




– Third and Goal play on the Steelers’ first trip to the red zone. Looks pretty clear Ben Roethlisberger checks to a run. And it’s not a bad idea given the fact the Steelers are in 11 personnel, forcing a safety out of the box to cover the slot.

It’s a blocking scheme issue. Execution problem. The one tech gets doubled, leaving the linebacker – Craig Robertson – free to fill the hole. Someone missed an assignment during the check.



– Kickoff unit: L1-R1. Cortez Allen, Robert Golden, Vince Williams, Ross Ventrone, Terrence Garvin, Shaun Suisham, Will Allen, Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and William Gay.

Ray Agnew misses Lawrence Timmons and decides to block….wide receiver Taylor Gabriel. 94 with the TFL. Awkward.


– This is football 101. Pop Warner stuff. Keep your eyes on the ball against the run. Can’t drop them or you take yourself out of the play.

Someone tell Cam Thomas that. Look at his eyes compared to every other defender in the shot.


Of course, Thomas is run down the line.

– Really like the technique from Gay on this 3rd down for the Browns. Runs overtop of Cortez Allen, not getting picked or forced to take a wide angle. Drives on the receiver and closes quickly, forcing the throw wide and incomplete. It’s subtle and definitely won’t show up on the stat sheet, but it’s a veteran play by a corner having a nice year.

– This game was full of all sorts of quirks. I have no explanation for Marcus Gilbert here. Working to the third level to take on the safety – there’s no one else around him – and then he just stops. Like he’s living in an episode of Under the Dome.

Only a gain of four when it had the potential for much more.

Markus Wheaton’s 3rd and 2 drop. He is trying to sell vertical to open up the curl but check out this still shot below. Every player understands the down and distance and have their eyes to the ball. Except Wheaton. Dropped, incomplete.


– Cortez Allen not used to defending in tight quarters. His feet are in concrete (not moving) off the snap. So late to react that Lawrence Timmons gets to the edge before Allen does.



Ideally, Allen sets the edge spills the runner to Timmons. Doesn’t happen though and it’s a touchdown.

– Sideways return Mike Tomlin talked about when referring to Dri Archer in his presser. The rookie not under the ball, catching it from the side.


Short return although you can’t solely blame Archer. The return unit’s blocking was terrible Sunday.

On this return, Will Johnson and Cody Wallace pick up the same defender, allowing the other one to run free. He makes the tackle.


– Le’Veon Bell’s near catch down the right sideline. Pretty ball from Ben. It’s another sluggo concept with Roethlisberger pump-faking on the slant. Love the concept. Nearly worked.




– Ben can’t try and throw this curl against Cover 2 man, the corners playing trail. No window available. Bad decision.


– Please look downfield when you’re covering punts, Heyward-Bey. I don’t think that’s asking much. He’s replaced by Ventrone on the next punt.


Troy Polamalu still a threat to offenses when he’s in the box. Catches the eye of the tight end and him and the wide receiver double him. Lawrence Timmons now free to make the tackle.



James Harrison ripping through Jordan Cameron, gets held, still records the TFL.

– How close Harrison was to sacking Hoyer on the 51 yard touchdown to Cameron. Games of inches.


– Brief glimpse of Dri Archer’s speed. K’Waun Williams seems to have the angle but Archer outruns him to the edge. Pedals for 15.



– On the following Steelers’ punt, Ross Ventrone is double-viced but fights off blocks and is still the first man down to cover the punt, making a tackle for a short loss. He deserves it. Giving the team good reason to give him a hat on Monday.

– Appears to be Cover 0 on Taylor Gabriel’s 24 yard catch mid-way through the second. Both safeties are rotated down. Cornerback is in a difficult situation to play the bender in off coverage.


– Steelers caught in their base against the Browns in an empty set, 02 personnel (0 RB, 2 TE). In response, they drop Heyward and Brett Keisel into coverage, only rushing Cam Thomas. Though Timmons does rush late.



Steve McLendon leveraging the center Greco to get penetration. RB ends up tripping and falling.


– Looking at the Ben Tate touchdown, he did have a nice cut to avoid Troy Polamalu in the hole. Feel a little less critical of 43 now than I was watching it live.

– Another kick return fail. Four blockers, three defenders. Still lose. Matt Spaeth can’t hold his block.



– Antonio Brown’s catch radius.


Come on, that isn’t even fair.

– Markus Wheaton looks awkward at the top of his stem. When he sees he needs to adjust, instead of flipping his hips and getting his head around, he shuffles backwards. I don’t know if he has a chance to make the catch regardless but he’s got a better shot. Bottom of the screen in the GIF below.

– Not a fan of “hiding” the second jammer. Ross Ventrone that guy here. I don’t want to give the gunner a cleaner release and force my jammer to hit a moving target.



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