When Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen was taken out of the starting lineup several weeks ago, he was replaced by Brice McCain in the base defense. While the Steelers have managed to win their last three games with McCain as the starter, I’m sure they can’t wait to get veteran Ike Taylor back on the field again.
In the Steelers last three games, McCain has been targeted 17 times and he’s given up 14 catches for 204 yards and one touchdown. That touchdown came Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens and here is a look at that first down scoring play.
The Ravens used 21 personnel on the play with the strong side of the formation being on the left. It’s a run look and the Steelers counter by running a cover-1 weak-side blitz defense as they send free safety Mike Mitchell on the play.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith is lined up to the right on the weak side and McCain is playing press coverage with inside technique being as there is essentially no real safety help in the middle of the field. Smith went as far as to call it cover-0 after the game for what it’s worth, but regardless, McCain is on an island with no help over the top.
McCain, however, plays this very poorly as not only does he allow Smith a free release off of the line of scrimmage, he opens his hips almost immediately. There is zero mirroring and the gate is open. It only takes Smith five yards to get even and that point he’s leaving. In other words, unless McCain makes one hell of a recover, he is likely toast in trail coverage.
In McCain’s defense, he does manage to run with Smith, but as soon as he starts looking up for the football instead of driving Smith’s hip and playing his hands, he gives up valuable space as he slows up in the process. Smith is in control all of the way and it winds up being an easy score.
In the future, the Steelers can’t let McCain play press-man outside and especially without any safety help over the top. In reality, McCain is better suited to play in the slot and not outside, but unless they are willing to start Antwon Blake in his place in the base defense until Taylor returns, they can expect to continue to have problems at that outside position.