By Alex Kozora
An All-22 perspective of questions I’ll look to answer of the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-32 defeat to the hands of the New Orleans Saints Sunday.
– We’ll start with the most important position, QB. We know Ben Roethlisberger had a horrific day. But why? The injured hand can’t be an excuse either; he didn’t look sharp and missed high on his passes before the injury. Mechanically, what was the issue? Release point that was too early, which admittedly, could be difficult for me to judge. Is it, as some have suggested, a weight transfer issue where he wasn’t transferring weight to his front foot, causing his throws to sail? It’ll be interesting to try and diagnose his problems.
– I won’t dog Le’Veon Bell’s performance but there were a few times where he seemed a little too picky about which hole he wanted to hit. Left a few yards on the field, I bet.
– I want to check out the route concept on the interception intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone. It looked similar to Dri Archer’s wheel route Big Ben missed against the Tennessee Titans. But couldn’t tell for sure. Want to get another look.
– Why did receivers not named Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton combine for just three catches on 32 completions? Ben not going through his reads or receivers not getting open? Both seem like likely explanations.
– Heath Miller got open over the middle a ton. Schematically, with weak safety play, I’m banking on the Saints employing a similar defense as the New York Jets. A lot of two high shells to hide the safeties, which opens up throws between the numbers.
– Mike Adams seemed to have his hands full with Cameron Jordan. Especially late in the game when Jordan could pin his ears back. Constantly knocked off his base via a strong punch.
– For that matter, David DeCastro may have struggled, too. His pass protection has been suspect all year long. Will get a bigger look at if 66 struggled.
– By my count, Kelvin Beachum has allowed the most sacks and been assessed the most penalties of anyone on the Steelers’ offensive line. Looks like he got beat around the edge a few times. There’s still a good bit to like about Beachum but it may be a stretch to say he’s entrenched as the left tackle of the future. Think the team is still trying to figure that out the rest of this season.
– Would like to try to count up the number of attempts and yards the Steelers got out of using Power O the last two weeks. It went for back-to-back runs of 12 and 18 in the second quarter and was the concept used on Bell’s TD. I know there’s always the risk of overusing it but I would have gone back to that well even more if I’m Todd Haley.
– With Brett Keisel almost certainly lost for the season, the onus will be on Stephon Tuitt to pick up the slack in snaps as a rotational DE. Tuitt was in the lineup on a lot of the Saints’ big runs and though I’m not certain if he was directly at fault, there’s a good chance he was. The rookie has struggled against the run this year and has seldomly had to face it. Just 44 times entering Week 13. He’s got to get better against the run…and fast.
– Cameron Heyward appeared to have a strong day. His one pressure caused Drew Brees to miss an open Kenny Stills early in the contest. Hopefully he’s one guy to highlight.
– How many times is Jason Worilds actually winning his matchup as opposed to the scheme opening things up for him? Pretty sure his sack came from him blitzing from an ILB spot. Obviously, not getting the production out of him you’re looking for from a dude at that price tag.
– Sean Spence really seems to be struggling. I’ve highlighted his inconstancy before and now, he’s barely making any plays to justify it. Even in coverage he seems slow to flip his hips. Wear and tear of the season for a guy who hasn’t played in a long time or just a lack of overall talent?
– Don’t even know where to start with the defensive backs. Felt like a mess across the board but only one receiver had more than 17 yards. Of course, that was Stills who went for 159. Got behind the coverage at least three times. MOF was open consistently. Curious as to what those coverages were.
– Steelers tried using dime for the first time all season. Obviously to defend Jimmy Graham, who they gave a lot of bracket coverage to. New looks to check out.
– One working theory. Brees struggled against those looks. The Saints take Graham off the field, the Steelers stop playing dime, and the Saints do a better job of moving the sticks.
– All I know is Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell have combined to create two turnovers, pick off zero passes, record zero sacks, and have three pass deflections. Awful numbers from the position. And things weren’t better Sunday.
– On special teams, want to get a look at the personnel with some pieces back – Shamarko Thomas and Ross Ventrone, plus the addition of Josh Harris to at least two units.