By Alex Kozora
Game observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week Seven victory against the Houston Texans.
– Kick coverage unit from L-R: Cortez Allen, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone, Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Shaun Suisham, Will Allen, Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, Darrius Heyward-Bey, B.W. Webb.
– Who is this version of Cam Thomas? Crazy thing happens when you limit his snap (18). Actually the first one to fire off the ball.
– Sean Spence appeared to make the necessary adjustments in the second half. Big stick and drive on Foster.
– Lawrence Tmmons again playing with proper leverage, getting under the pads of left guard Ben Jones. Sheds, makes the tackle.
– 3rd and 1 for the Steelers. LeGarrette Blount gets the ball on a draw. One-on-one with safety Kendrick Lewis but gets taken down short of the sticks. Shouldn’t happen to a “power” guy like Blount, who in reality, doesn’t always run like a power back. Statistically, he’s terrible in third and short situations.
– What Cam Thomas also failed to do last week. Or all season. Move laterally and keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t get turned and washed. Does so here and is able to get off the block and make the tackle. See ball, get ball.
– I was originally shaking my fist angrily at Danny Smith but it appears the Steelers were preparing for a possible Texans fake punt. Pulled Heyward-Bey from his jammer spot to move him to the core of the formation, protecting the flat against any throw. How the Texans faked back in Week Three. And on 4th and inches, it is a tough play to stop.
– Big Ben Roethlisberger showing some major trust in Martavis Bryant. Throws this jump ball before Bryant has even come close to eating up the cushion on the corner. And that’s against the Texans best corner, Jonathan Joseph. Trust in your guy to make a play. The rookie almost made a leaping grab but the pass fell incomplete.
– DHB going up to grab this one on 3rd down. Shows a nice catch radius.
– When the defense drops eight, you can’t allow this kind of window. Easy completion to Andre Johnson.
– Flash of the old James Harrison, even if it is against a tight end. Puts him on his butt. Still, I don’t see the strength to rip the edge like I used to. He can still bend but that strength might not be there.
– Another missed block on a kick return. Double-team one, leave another free. Dri Archer already facing bodies before he gets to the 20. Unacceptable blocking the last two weeks.
– Signs of a nasty streak from David DeCastro. Runs Brian Cushing well out of this play. Cushing doesn’t look the same anymore. Not that dominant player he once was.
– Good and bad from Mike Adams on the same play. Strong initial punch to knock the OLB off balanced. But lunges on the counter and winds up whiffing.
– Two things I noticed on Le’Veon Bell’s 20 yard run. Fantastic combo block by Matt Spaeth. Seals the lineman before working to linebacker Justin Tuggle at the last moment, getting just enough of him so he can’t fill the lane.
And I’m pretty sure the safety Lewis was scared to tackle Bell. Appears to have the angle but backs off, following Bell to the sideline.
– Adams again getting upright in pass protection, causing his left leg to come off the ground. Common problem he’s dealt with.
– Antonio Brown’s catch radius. Still as impressive as ever.
– Sluggo on the Brown TD overturned. Cornerback bit badly. Was a severe mismatch to begin with.
– Another AB shoutout. Juking Joseph out of his shoes.
– Have to appreciate Antwon Blake running down this kick. He’s R3, third player in from the right. Gets down their first, spins off a block, finds the runner, and makes the solo tackle at the Texans’ 14. Combined, he and Ventrone had four special teams tackles. Chidi Iwuoma must be proud.
– Odd coverage from Cortez Allen. Looks like Cover 1, check out William Gay following his receiver at the bottom of the screen, but Allen fails to continue running with DeAndre Hopkins as he breaks on the deep dig.
– Mike Mitchell bails him out with the forced fumble on the same play. Tremendous job to make the tackle, hold Hopkins up, and rip the ball out. Mitchell has been playing some really good ball the last three weeks.
– Part of the Steelers stellar kick coverage has come from them switching lane responsibility during the kick. Ventrone switches his gap and the Texans do a poor job of adjusting. He runs down free to make the tackle. Gameplan and execution coming together.
– Where Michael Palmer lined up on the onside kick.
The other side of the field. Some luck, craziness, and hustle involved on that one.
– Your hands team, in no particular order: Dri Archer as the deep return man. The rest: Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Markus Wheaton, Troy Polamalu, Will Johnson, Michael Palmer, Martavis Bryant, Matt Spaeth, and Le’Veon Bell.
– Some other quick notes.
– Mike Adams survived and that was important. No sacks allowed. He would flash a good punch and moved well enough laterally. Still, there were other times he failed to get into the defender’s pads and they’d take control, leading to some downright ugly plays. His bend *may* have been better but it’s still an issue.
– I noticed an occasional hop step off the line from Martavis Bryant. Needs to be exploding off the line each time. Things like that not unexpected from a raw rookie. Overall, a good showing.
– Lawrence Timmons has had some good games in his career. But this one may have been the best. Most dominant player on the field Monday. Hands down. Dude was everywhere. 11 solo tackles were the most since October 20th, 2013.
– Cameron Heyward confirmed what I put in my primer. Underrated, dominant performance.
– Stephon Tuitt continues to be an active hand fighter who might be doing his best work getting after the QB rather than playing the run.
– Brett Keisel’s INT makes him the second oldest Steeler to pick off a pass. Oldest is a 37 year old Ernie Stautner in 1962. He was 37. Keisel is 36. Da Beard also has the last two interceptions by a Steelers’ defensive lineman.