Steelers Versus Chiefs: An All-22 Primer

The weekly All-22 primer of things I’ll be keeping in the back of my mind when watching the Coaches Tape of the Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

– A couple of people have correctly pointed it out on Twitter. Ben Roethlisberger played a really good game. He would have had a second touchdown had Heath Miller not dropped it. His play-action was masterful and had linebackers biting all game.

I can’t recall a bad decision Roethlisberger made and he typically got the ball out of his hand quickly. It wasn’t the statistically gaudy game we’ve seen from him in 2014 but still one of his better ones. The Coaches Tape will bring that to light.

Todd Haley did a very nice job game planning the passing game. My favorite being the use of putting Antonio Brown in the slot to exploit the matchup against Chris Owens. The best of the group being a 14 yard reception on 3rd and 4 in the final quarter. Haley put Brown in the slot, used ghost motion (start to motion and then send the player back) to show man coverage, and then Roethlisberger hit AB on a slant for the first down.

It helped lead to a field goal that made it a two-possession game.

Haley also did a nice job with some of those well-timed play-action throws to Miller down the seam and some stack releases that let Big Ben hit AB on two quick slants.

If there was an area I have some initial concern with how Haley controlled the run game. Ultimately, it is all about execution but I wasn’t a fan of the Heavy sets used against the Chiefs. Perhaps Kansas City was more inclined to stay in their base defense as inside linebacker Joe Mays worked his way back into the lineup. But I really thought you could spread this Chiefs’ defense out, put them in nickel or dime, and gash them. That didn’t happen Sunday afternoon. And the run game was sluggish at best for the second week in a row.

– Bell didn’t make an impact on the box score today but again, here’s a guy that played every down. Over the last five games, Bell has missed ten offensive snaps, some of which came in garbage time against the Cincinnati Bengals. That can’t be overlooked. Matt Forte might be the only other back in the league that could be reasonably asked to do such an unheard of thing for a running back today.

– Not that he’s likely to be needed again but we’ll watch Michael Palmer’s role/ability as a blocker. I’m nothing if not thorough.

Heath Miller had that rare drop but made a couple of tough catches as only Miller seems to do for the Steelers.

– It’s unlikely it’ll be shown again unless Matt Spaeth is out again but we’ll look at how Mike Adams did in both phases of the offense as the extra tight end. Curious to see what his snap count ended up being.

Martavis Bryant really impressed me on his lone reception, a 44 yard gain. Showed the ability to win at the line against press coverage. We know Bryant was fast, a big-body, long strider, but I have been waiting to see him win in some “NFL” situations that were foreign in college.

That was his only catch of the day but I’ll look at the aerial views throughout the game to see if continued to gain separation off the line. Especially if/when he faced long-armed CB Sean Smith.

Marcus Gilbert was ugly early, notably getting knocked off his base by svelte rookie Dee Ford early in the game. But thought he settled down the rest of the game after getting his legs under him….literally and figuratively.

– Overall, the Steelers did a good job in pass protection. The Chiefs’ defensive line and outside linebackers are a lot to handle. Might not have always looked pretty but against that unit, seeing only one Roethlisberger sack should be considered a win.

– The goal line run was a thing of beauty for the Steelers. The offensive line had as good of a collective win at the line of scrimmage as you’ll ever see. Excited to point out each block and how dominate it truly was.

Some old-school offensive line coaching sitting on a ranch in Texas is probably weeping tears of joy to how great the blocking was.

– Rest of the game wasn’t anything special for the run. Reports were the Chiefs were keying in on stopping Bell. Want to see exactly how they did it. Linebacker run blitzes, putting an extra safety in the box, etc.

I really think the Chiefs getting to play so much base just naturally helped, too.

Stephon Tuitt is growing up in front of us. Stacking two positive games and he really got after the quarterback today. Love his movement skills and using him on T/E stunts is only making him that much more effective. And you don’t stop a top ten rushing attack without a great unit effort by the defensive line to hold the point. Honestly, that’ll probably pop up on tape more than anything else. We know Tuitt got after the QB today. The end zone tape will show how well he did against the run.

And then the hustle he showed on his forced fumble. Being in a locker room with Cameron Heyward and Brett Keisel has that effect. The hustle those two guys show is infectious. And Tuitt has consistently shown a great motor all year.

I posted it on Twitter but I put back up a picture of his tackle at the end of the second meeting against the Baltimore Ravens – the 43-23 win. With less than 45 seconds left and the Steelers up by 20, Tuitt ran a screen 15 yards downfield. He didn’t have to, the game was over. But he charged like the game was on the line. The guy is showing every tool in the toolbox. And thank goodness because until the last two weeks, this rookie class was as exciting as wallpaper.

– So many mismatches from the Steelers’ front seven against the Chiefs’ o-line. Heyward against Jeff Linkenbach, James Harrison/Eric Fisher, Jason Worilds/Ryan Harris.

Someone cut up each of Harrison’s snaps and loop it all week in the Steelers’ locker room. That’s the bar this team should set each week from now on. Talk about a veteran making a young guy looking like he doesn’t belong in the league.

– Quite simply, in both phases, the Steelers dominated the Chiefs’ offensive line. And that was refreshing. Love them stepping up in the most important game of the season.

– Didn’t really see it myself – though I wasn’t looking – but heard Ryan Shazier catch some flack for poor play. Will be paying close attention to his performance.

Sean Spence still flashes enough that you want to see more. Had another “see to do” tackle.

– Checking out the rotations at ROLB and ILB. Don’t think Arthur Moats played much, if at all. Jarvis Jones saw some time early but I can’t imagine he got a lot of playing time with Harrison turning in such a dominant performance. If Troy Polamalu or Ike Taylor returns next week, it’ll be interested if Moats or Jones gets demoted. I think one of them will.

– This cornerback unit has some hard hitters – Antwon Blake and William Gay – but man, these guys have to work on getting off stalk blocks on these screens. Been an issue the last two weeks.

– The almost touchdown to Albert Wilson was concerning. Luckily, Alex Smith missed (pressure may have contributed, too). Want to check the coverage. Saw Mike Mitchell bite on an underneath crosser. We’ll see where the breakdown was but I have a feeling I’ll be blaming Mitchell for not supporting his corner by reading vertical routes.

If there is any defense of him, playing single high safety in coverage can’t be fun. Can only cover one route…

–  Will Allen was sent on a ton of blitzes today. We’ll see if the team blitzed their DBs more this week or last week (13). Probably last week but Dick LeBeau wasn’t shy for the second week in a row.

– Speaking of LeBeau but he seemed pretty creative again today. Lots of stunts, putting Worilds at ILB in passing situation, safety blitzes, etc. When he’s done that this year – as he did against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens – the Steelers look like the team of old. And that’s a good thing.

– Special teams…wow. Terrific in almost all facets today. But this kick coverage unit. It’s pretty incredible and an important reason why the Steelers are having so much success. How many ST demons are on this unit? Terence Garvin, Sharmako Thomas, Vince Williams, Antwon Blake, Ross Ventrone. That’s a great group. These guys kept De’Anthony Thomas and Kniles Davis in check today.

Brad Wing’s 56 yard punt that resulted in only a five yard return may have been the highlight of the day for this group. 51 net is a pretty number.

Big ups to Danny Smith for the job he’s done.

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