Steelers vs Colts First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations of the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory on Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts.

  • Despite facing a more potent offense, the Steelers opened in their base defense against Andrew Luck, meaning Cam Thomas in at nose tackle. He missed a tackle on Ahmad Bradshaw up the middle on the second play.
  • The Steelers left Brice McCain one on one with T.Y. Hilton on that early 45-yard reception. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he didn’t try to play the ball despite the fact that he was backpedaling by the time the ball was in the air. Tackle the catch, and it would have been a 22-yard gain.
  • It didn’t help matters that Mike Mitchell whiffed on a tackle attempt on the play either.
  • The Steelers forced the Colts to kick a field goal after three more plays. They used three different inside linebackers. On first down, it was Ryan Shazier. Sean Spence played his lone snap on second down, making a nice move to the sideline on a lateral run to make a tackle after a short gain. Vince Williams came on for third down, an incompletion with Lawrence Timmons—as the mack linebacker—in the vicinity.
  • For the Steelers, they opened on offense with a two tight end set, with Le’Veon Bell finding room inside Matt Spaeth for four yards on first down. On second down, it was the 11, with Spaeth and Markus Wheaton giving way to Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
  • Bryant caught his second pass of the day for 19 yards out of a two receiver set. He may still be a ‘package’ player, but he’s quickly emerging as the third option at receiver.
  • Speaking of Wheaton, he got some much needed attention on that opening drive, hauling in both targets on the series for 27 yards and his first career touchdown. That should keep his head where it needs to be if he is the be a last part of this offense’s success.
  • Shazier saved the Steelers some trouble after nearly overrunning a screen pass on first down. He dropped into coverage, spotted the play in a hurry, and blew it up at the line of scrimmage.
  • It was Troy Polamalu on second down disrupting Luck, drawing two blockers and then getting up to deflect the pass himself.
  • Once again, it was Williams replacing Shazier on third down—another incompletion. Williams rushed the passer.
  • After a string of largely uninspiring running plays, the offense line finally creased a bit of a crease on second down on their second possession, with the right side of the line, along with Heath Miller, creating a running lane for about 10 yards.
  • A rare incompletion, and Ben Roethlisberger’s first one, on second and seven. Here’s why it happened. Designed screen pass to Bell. Ricky Jean-Francois diagnosed it and grabbed on to Bell. Since it’s a screen, the rush is allowed in. the delay for Bell allowed the rush to get home before Roethlisberger could deliver the ball. Smart play.
  • Of course, Roethlisberger beat the rush on the next play and tossed the ball to Bell for the third down conversion.
  • After a holding call, the Steelers had second and 17, and Roethlisberger found Lance Moore for the first down. Mike Adams gave Miller help on the edge to assure that his quarterback had time to throw.
  • Bell followed a Miller lead block and cut inside the man who got away from David DeCastro on the next play for another run of 10 yards on the next play.
  • Fast forward a few plays later on second and goal from the five. Three receiver set with Brown, Heyward-Bey, and Bryant. Bryant on the left side, Bell in the backfield in the left sidecar, Miller left off the line. Bell flanked to the left, parallel to the line of scrimmage, while Miller ran straight ahead and angled right. Bryant took advantage of the space that those routes created as Roethlisberger found him for an easy touchdown.
  • He’s getting lots of practice on his post-touchdown football spin, by the way.
  • On the Colts’ next series, Daniel McCullers opened at nose tackle, getting some penetration up the middle, but Luck was still able to dump it off to his back. Shazier once again came up to minimize the damage and make the tackle. Off to the nickel on second and five.
  • Short drive. Pick six.
  • After allowing returns past the 20-yard line on the first two kickoffs, Antwon Blake had other ideas, making the tackle at the 14-yard line.
  • Williams was in on the next drive, in on the tackle on first and second down. Cameron Heyward tipped a pass on third down, but offsetting penalties negated that. Story of Heyward’s day.
  • On third and three, Luck found Donte Moncrief between Timmons and Williams for 52 yards. Blown coverage.
  • Timmons ‘sacked’ Luck on the next play, but the quarterback was able to get rid of the ball just in time. He’s good at that.
  • McCullers on the field for the next play. Absorbed a cut block attempt by the left tackle. Engulfed Bradshaw after a gain of one.
  • Got some push on the next play early, but was worked aside late, as Luck found his tight end in the end zone for a touchdown over Timmons in coverage.
  • Fittingly, Antonio Brown’s first catch of the day was a tough one along the right sideline as he was being interfered with.
  • And then there’s Dri Archer. One snap, a simple screen pass. Dropped the ball. Done for the day.
  • It’s okay, though, the rookie drafted in the round after him hauled in a 52-yarder over the shoulder on the next play.
  • Many might not even remember this, but the Steelers were about to kick a field goal at the end of that drive, if not for an offside penalty on the field goal attempt. Brown hauled in a one-hander on the next play for the score.
  • Jason Worilds jumped a bubble screen on first down and batted the ball away on the Colts’ next possession. They went three and out, with Brett Keisel pressuring on third down.
  • Fullback Will Johnson got his first pass of the day, all YAC, and was looking for people to hit at the end of the play after 18 yards. He converted on second and two to go two plays later with a tough catch that was right in his face as he turned around. Roethlisberger and Brown hooked up for a long touchdown later on the drive on a scramble drill.
  • Veteran Steeler James Harrison nearly opened up the game on second down when he sacked Luck and he fumbled, but Bradshaw recovered. Luck found Hakeem Nicks over Cortez Allen on third and 11, and the Colts went on to score a touchdown on the drive—over Allen.
  • The Steelers drove to the 34 on their next drive at the end of the half, but Roethlisberger tried to punt the ball, and had it blocked. Everybody knew he was going to punt it. The Colts recovered at the 35 and scored a field goal to end the half trailing 35-20.
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