By Alex Kozora
Game observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week Seven victory against the Houston Texans.
– Kick return unit. Front five from left to right. Arthur Moats, Robert Golden, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Antwon Blake. Michael Palmer/Matt Spaeth as the next two. Cody Wallace and Will Johnson continue to make up the wedge. LeGarrette Blount served as the upback for Dri Archer.
– The blocking scheme on kick returns slightly changed though we didn’t see it on every return. On the opening kickoff, Vince Williams turns into the aggressor and tries to attack the Houston R5.
Unrelated but Robert Golden comes across the field and lights up a defender. Nice start to his day and overall, a dominant performance by the teams’ unit.
– Steelers first play is still a packaged play but the added wrinkle of Ben Roethlisberger keeping it. The EMOL crashes, allowing Ben to scoot off the edge. Still, the design is nice. Use the same concept but add in new elements to keep the defense on their toes.
– Prefer Le’Veon Bell to follow his blocks here. Has an open lane behind Heath Miller but chooses to cut right side instead. Only a four yard gain.
– Another pistol set within the Steelers first 15 scripted plays. Used it with Bell and Archer later in the game.
– David DeCastro knew what he was going up against. On third down with JJ Watt playing a wide tech, DeCastro snaps off the ball. So much so he nearly runs into Marcus Gilbert.
– Speaking of Gilbert, he’s again having trouble with his arms. In previous weeks, they’ve been shooting too late. Monday, he was consistently losing the leverage battle. Hands too high. The OLBs the low man and able to walk him back. Saw it twice in the first quarter. Never got the chance to adjust before leaving with his concussion.
– Punt coverage: Antwon Blake and Ross Ventrone the gunners. Ventrone starting over Darrius Heyward-Bey, who got the initial nod last week before being replaced by 35. Others: Michael Palmer, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, Sean Spence, Will Allen, and Robert Golden the upback.
– Brett Keisel getting under center Chris Myers. Penetrates, forces the cutback. Steelers contain and rally to bring Arian Foster down.
– LOVE Jason Worilds’ leg drive on the Texans’ first third own of their opening drive. Disappointing no one could finish the sack and Houston moves the chains but he walks right tackle Derek Newton back into the QB.
On the catch, Brice McCain may have gotten a little complacent but it was a Cover 2 call. The sideline between the corner and safety is a vulnerability.
– Troy Polamalu sees Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambles and uses the chance to light up a receiver. Takes out McCain in the process.
– Sean Spence has to fill this lane here and make the tackle. Needs to attack and be aggressive. Fails to, makes a feeble arm tackle, and Foster breaks through.
– Fantastic job by Lawrence Timmons taking on this second level block. Dips the inside shoulder and forces the run inside. Beginning of one of his best days in recent memory.
– Foster’s 33 yard run. Not a big fan of creeping the inside linebackers to the line, been spurned by that too often, but Spence again the culprit. Has to learn how to keep flowing laterally when taking on these zone blocks. Gets stuck and doesn’t fill his lane, the backside “A.” Lets Foster cut back. Then Spence misses the tackle. Whole lot of bad.
– Alfred Blue TD, the first from Houston. Texans run tight end Garrett Graham vertically, carrying Spence. Opens up Blue underneath.
– Usually the starters only play on the field goal block unit but plans change when you have the 6’7 guy. Daniel McCullers served on this unit.
– Steelers run the same packaged play from the first snap later in the game. JJ Watt now has to respect the possibility of Roethlisberger running. Great way to neutralize him without having to touch him.
– DeCastro drifting upfield on this double-team, allowing Ryan Pickett to win inside and make the tackle.
– Power O but DeCastro and Miller block the same player, leaving the linebacker free.
– McCullers, as expected, strong at the POA. Not moved on this double-team.
– Dri Archer moving way too laterally on this kick return. The coverage unit now no longer has to run through the blockers but around.
– Brooks Reed bull rushes Heath Miller, planting the veteran tight end into the ground. Miller just isn’t the same anymore
On the play, I think Gilbert’s helmet collided with Reed’s, leading to his concussion. But the angle fails to make it conclusive.
– On one punt coverage tackle, I clocked Antwon Blake running 59 yards to make an immediate stop in 7.10 seconds. And that wasn’t straight line either. Double-viced and still got there cleanly first. I don’t think he has a shot to ever make an impact on defense but he’s a definite core special teamer.
– Timmons again showing off his technique to get off blocks. 340 pound Brandon Brooks coming out him. Timmons has his outside arm free, dips the inside shoulder, and rips through to shed and helps on the tackle.
– What impressed me more than perhaps anything else from McCullers. Not his size, his leverage, or his strength. It was how quickly he rose to his feet after being cut. Did so immediately on back-to-back plays, including the Texans’ 4th and 1, shown in the pictures below.
– Great coverage by Brice McCain. Plays to the hip and pinks DeAndre Hopkins to the sideline. Pass incomplete.
– Good decision by Roethlisberger on the goal line to hit Antonio Brown on a quick slant with the corner rolled off. Was a called run. Gave the Steelers more breathing room.
– Bell runs an angle route on his 43 yard reception. Sell outside and break it inside, fighting off a bump from Brian Cushing.
– Kudos to Matt Spaeth for doing something a lot of lineman couldn’t do. Wash Watt. Seals him to the inside.
– Cam Heyward sheds this block of Brooks to make the stop on Foster. Does well to move laterally, quick hands to shed, find the runner, and make the stop before Foster can get into the open field.
– Timmons’ sack. Gets the right tackle Newton to “open the gate” (hips). As soon as he does that, Timmons plants, turns upfield, and Newton grabs air.
– Foster fumble before the half. Texans tend to run Power O out of the gun and that’s what we get here. What it creates is a gap for Worilds to slant into. Makes the tackle with Sean Spence popping it out. Taking advantage of the scheme.
– Roethlisberger’s cut block on Antonio Brown’s TD pass to Lance Moore. Something to look back and smile upon after the season.
– Martavis Bryant’s TD. Island coverage against fellow rookie Andre Hal. Like that matchup. Bryant is the first Steeler whose first NFL catch went for a 20+ yard TD since Mark Malone in 1981. Malone had a 90 yard TD.
– Brett Keisel got the deflection and ultimately, the interception, but credit has to go to Heyward for collapsing the pocket and forcing Fitzpatrick to throw from a funky arm angle and unsound base.
– The last time the Steelers scored 24 points in a quarter, as they did Monday night? November of 1998 when they hung 24 in the 4th quarter in a losing effort to the Tennessee Oilers. Oilers. Mike Tomczak threw two touchdown passes. Kordell Stewart threw the third. The Steelers converted three two point conversions.