Steelers Versus Falcons: An All-22 Primer

An All-22 primer of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

– This doesn’t apply solely to Ben Roethlisberger but it all starts with him. Why did the offense stall so often in the first half? What was Ben’s decision making and what were the coverages he faced? For Big Ben to have a pretty good game and not throw a touchdown is rare.

– I like how Big Ben spread the wealth. Four receivers had at least 66 yards receiving. First time four have done it for the Steelers since October 30th, 2011.

Le’Veon Bell didn’t have a gaudy game on the ground but that doesn’t mean there weren’t nice runs. I love his jump cuts and how well he moves laterally. Ability to get something out of nothing. Turns one yard losses into three yard gains. Lots of hidden yardage.

And there were plenty of times where Bell didn’t need to dance and hit the hole up the middle with conviction. Always nice to see, too.

Beyond that, you love a guy who gets so involved in the passing game. Second on the team in receptions and yards today (and the season). A player who is getting split out multiple times each game and being targeted on some critical downs. The penalty Antonio Brown drew in the 4th quarter was a dig route intended for Bell.

And then you have his continued incredible work in pass protection, something Steelers’ fans definitely noticed during yesterday’s game. And with good reason. On at least two occasions, Bell did an A+ job in pickup. Ben Roethlisberger’s sack comes to mind when Bell knocked an interior blitzer flat on his butt.

– Antonio Brown stole the show…again. But let’s not start with him. Give some credit to Markus Wheaton for hauling in each of his targets. That includes a nifty grab on a crosser thrown behind.  Maybe not Wheaton’s best game of his career but perhaps his most well-rounded. Let’s see what the tape has to show.

– The Steelers tried to get Heath Miller involved on some of those pop passes off playaction but the Falcons didn’t bite either time. While he did have the game-sealing catch, we’ll probably see more on tape about him as a blocker than anything else.

– Offensive line had mixed results. There were moments of the game when the pass protection was strong and gave Roethlisberger lots of time. I saw examples of David DeCastro doing a good job anchoring against rookie DT Ra’Shede Hageman. And truthfully, I don’t think Mike Adams did a terrible job in pass protection overall.

However, I saw Kelvin Beachum nearly get knocked on his backside and the Steelers blow another stunt to a slow-footed DT who looped over the right side for a sack. And when the running game averages 2.4 YPC, there are some obvious issues. I might be interested in evaluating the offensive line than anything else.

Stephon Tuitt’s improvement seems rapid. Saw one play in particular where he got his arms extended, shed the lineman, and made the tackle. Textbook two-gapping. The rookie is definitely trending in the right direction now that he’s been given the opportunity.

– Now that Steve McLendon has a week under his belt, I want to see what he’s bringing to the defensive line. Quick first step was evident on one holding call he drew. I’ve really been leaning towards considering him the nose tackle of the future.

– There were still a couple big runs given up to the sluggish Steven Jackson. Some players not getting off their blocks of getting washed (I specifically remember it happening to Arthur Moats on one occasion).

Jarvis Jones still gets a pass for working his way back and being a pass rusher who has to wear a cast. However, I’m not seeing much in the form of strength or bend out of him. Faced the highly touted left tackle Jake Matthews in a ton of pass situations. Good test for 95. But I don’t think he graded out well.

Vince Williams is a heck of a player. The guy has excellent closing speed, is trusted in coverage – playing every nickel snap – and knows how to hit. And then he’ll play in multiple areas on special teams. Good tape showed up against Sunday.

William Gay and Antwon Blake are a couple cornerbacks who were burly linebackers in a past life. Big hitters that are capable of wrapping. I still go back and worth on Blake’s future prospects – his size truly does hinder him – but the guy sacrifices his body as much as anyone on this team. While still being a core special teamer.

– Don’t think the Steelers played receivers like they did for the first time all season against the Cincinnati Bengals. But we’ll double-check.

– Two 40 yard screens given up. How was no one able to close and rally? Something to investigate. Everyone in the league is giving up bigger plays but those two instances were unacceptable and not a product of recent rules changes.

– One likely explanation is the Steelers were blitzing on at least one of those. Dick LeBeau sent a ton of cat (corner) blitzes throughout the contest.

– Games like this show the value of Will Allen. The tape probably doesn’t have much to say but the snap count will. He was constantly filling in at either safety spot for Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell. The team has the trust the veteran to do that and Allen does a good job. No mental mistakes. Why Allen is still a part of this team.

Shamarko Thomas has yet to play a snap on defense this year, though injuries have played a factor, but he made his name known on special teams. Two tackles on the dangerous Devin Hester will earn you a pat on the back from Danny Smith.

Ross Ventrone will eternally have a place in my heart. Jacked up the opposing gunner twice Sunday. Another tone setter on special teams. And if I had to guess, in practice, too. Makes everyone around him better.

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