Week 16 game observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-12 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
– Kick return. Front five: Arthur Moats, Vince Williams, Robert Golden, Terence Garvin, Shamarko Thomas. Michael Palmer/Stephon Tuitt (replacing the injured Matt Spaeth), Cody Wallace/Will Johnson, with Josh Harris serving as the upback for Markus Wheaton.
– Love to see Martavis Bryant win off press coverage on his 44 yard reception. Legs/hands connected, jab step and then pushes off with his left leg as he strikes with his hands. Pushes through the door and wins off the line, creating immediate separation. Pass from Ben Roethlisberger was money, too.
– Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, and Cameron Heyward all storm out onto the field after Bryant’s grab. Team is fully functioning as that, a single unit coming together, as we’ll see throughout the rest of this article.
– Like the concept on Bryant’s end around. Split zone the Steelers commonly run early in games. Gets the defense to bite on Bell running away. Goes for ten.
– Steelers ran three consecutive packaged plays near the red zone on their first drive. Run/pass option for Roethlisberger at the line and the rules are generally simple. Seven men in the box is an alert to pass (slant route created by stacking two receivers to force off coverage, allowing separation). Six man box is an alert to hand it off, following a David DeCastro trap block.
All good decisions as those three plays went for 17 yards.
– Like the movement Ramon Foster gets working against DE Allen Bailey. Washes him out of the hole. Le’Veon Bell runs for seven. And Maurkice Pouncey with a good solo block on bit NT Dontari Poe. No chip, no help, but controls him. Very tough to do. Why he’s a Pro Bowler.
– Darrius Heyward-Bey showed a lot of value on special teams running down kicks. Starts on the Steelers’ first kickoff. Despite being R2 and more of a contain/pinch player, his speed lets him get down the field first, he winds up forcing a double-team, including the Chiefs’ upback. Allows other defenders to run free.
Kick coverage from left to right. Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone, Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Shaun Suisham, Sean Spence, Jarvis Jones, Antwon Blake, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Will Allen.
– Lawrence Timmons has to stay square to the LOS, not get spun around. Jamaal Charles runs for a ten yard gain.
– Kudos to William Gay for doing something Steelers’ CBs have had trouble doing the last two weeks. Gets off his block, albeit it’s a cut block instead of a stalk block. But hops over and makes the tackle.
– Heyward ate LG Jeff Linkenbach’s lunch. Toyed with him all day. Quick shoot of the hands, gets into his chest and steamrolls him.
– Steelers did a nice job of keeping TE Travis Kelce in check. Lot of pressing him off the line. Not letting him get separation off the line and get up to speed.
– I’m hoping to do a separate post on James Harrison’s pass rushing success but he obviously schooled LT Eric Fisher Sunday. His rip move is so tough to stop.
– Second week in a row Sean Spence showed the ability to stack and shed in the run game. Stacks the RT, sheds, and makes the tackle on Charles before the back can bend the run.
– I know Cam Thomas is not an athlete, and you can’t really knock him for not being the best at defending stretch runs, but what’s up with the first step? Not flowing down the line.
Winds up getting pushed almost out of the frame on a run to his side. Just bizarre.
– Brice McCain bullied by Dwayne Bowe. Can’t work off his stalk block. Ends up in s 19 yard gain.
– The Chiefs *should* have had their first TD by a WR Sunday. Jason Avant wide open on a slant. Appears Mike Mitchell screwed up his assignment. Zone coverage with Gay passing off Avant’s slant to inside help. But Mitchell flows down on the swing route, leaving both defenders to cover the same zone.
Alex Smith fortunately forces a pass to Travis Kelce and it’s incomplete. Caught a break. Why I love the All-22. Captures things like this you would never see on the broadcast tape.
– And the Chiefs may have had six on the next play. Tough concept to stop, basically a smash route, but receiver with some space on his corner route in the end zone. Maybe the safety or dropping CB can make a play but if I’m the Chiefs, I’m awfully disappointed about some missed opportunities.
– Same play. Harrison had clearly gotten into Fisher’s head. The second-year left tackle was so focused on stopping Harrison, he never passes this stunt off. Just rides Harrison the whole time, leaving Heyward free to loop and record the sack. Harrison makes that play possible.
– Chiefs with a four man rush. Steelers have three vertical routes downfield. Nothing available. There has to be a checkdown option from a tight end or a running back. Big Ben fires it downfield to Bryant and it falls incomplete.
However, the slide protection didn’t help. Heath Miller is left solo on Tamba Hali with Bell winding up giving help. Wind up having four offensive lineman blocking two Chiefs. Not efficient.
– Justin Houston with good arm extension into Marcus Gilbert’s pads, shedding and making the tackle.
– Near Roethlisberger fumble. Gilbert isn’t actually outmuscled. Kudos to rookie OLB Dee Ford for getting his arm fully extended into Gilbert’s chest. Takes control. Then uses his quick change of direction to shed him and nearly get to Ben.
Poe also bench presses Foster.
It probably should have been ruled a fumble, too.
– Punt coverage. Antwon Blake/Ross Ventrone gunners. The line. Michael Palmer – Vince Williams – Terence Garvin – Greg Warren – Will Johnson – Sean Spence – Will Allen – Robert Golden – Brad Wing.
– Quality gap control all around. Forces the punt returner wide.
High effort by Vince Williams, too, as usual. Misses the initial tackle but immediately pops back up and tracks De’Anthony Thomas down after a couple other Steelers miss.
– I know this doesn’t exactly look pretty but it’s pretty good recovery by Lawrence Timmons. False step off the ball and Kelce gets a free release to run a deep crosser. But able to chase, run through traffic of another crosser without getting caught up, and had Smith thrown it, probably has a chance to make a play on the ball. Kelce is a heck of an athlete. A lot of linebackers wouldn’t have been able to keep up.
– Have to admire the rally to the football to stop the Chiefs’ dangerous backs. Count them up, six defenders get involved to bring Charles down for a short gain.
– Excellent flow and gap control to keep Charles wide on this stretch run. Nowhere for the back to go.
– As we’ve pointed out before, no need for Antwon Blake to be opening up his hips with this much of a cushion and a two high shell to give support. Makes him later to close on the throw/catch and the Chiefs pick up a first down on 3rd and eight.
– The pressure starts to get in Smith’s head. Perceives what isn’t there. No reason to leave the pocket and take half the field away. Winds up throwing the pass away.
– Again, love the rally. Four defenders converge on Thomas.
– Antwon Blake sound technician to play this goal line back shoulder throw. Stays square off the snap and then swipes through the hands to break it up.
– Field goal following the fake. William Gay is sent on a rush instead of dropping like he did on the fake. Proper adjustment made.
– Steelers ran a staple play from the last two years, play-action to hit Miller down the seam. And Todd Haley shows his mark here. Successful teams can run their core plays multiple ways. Different formations, personnel groupings. Run it three ways. Straight dive to Miller, fake a toss to move the linebacker, and finally, a fake on a bubble screen to create the necessary space.
– Maurkice Pouncey does a great job to stick to Poe downfield on this screen.
– Cody Wallace asked to pull on his lone snap. Actually does a nice job of kicking out the linebacker. And as usual, he’s driving on his block until the whistle.
– Same play. Appears Marcus Gilbert screws up his assignment. Looks to block the front side linebacker when typically on the Steelers’ Power O, he blocks the backside linebacker. Late with his eyes to the backside and Josh Mauga (#90) fills.
– Bell’s TD. Superb blocking up front. Offensive line dominates. Can’t ask for better blocking in this situation. Gilbert, DeCastro, Miller, and Will Johnson have the key ones.
And like the team has done before, motion Palmer to draw a defender away from the run. And it actually takes two. Linebacker and the corner. That was critical.
– One minor note. Predictably, Palmer replaced Spaeth as the wing on field goals.
– Good hustle/rally by both tacklers on the ensuing kickoff, Heyward-Bey and Garvin. Garvin is knocked down and Heyward-Bey has to work across the entire field.
Of course, this is all made possible by Ross Ventrone’s ability to get down the field quickly and slow up the return man. Doubt Garvin nor Heyward-Bey are able to make their tackles if the return isn’t slowed.
– Not always easy but Ryan Shazier needs to wrap up in the alley on Charles. Misses and it goes for a decent run.
– Blake bites on a pump fake to the #2WR at the bottom of the screen. Late to close on the curl to the #1. Extra YAC.
– Good first step off the line from Jason Worilds, flushing Smith. Allows the rest of the line to no longer have to work through the offensive line but around. Stephon Tuitt able to work down the line and force Smith to the sideline. Results in a throwaway.
– Steve McLendon with a zone drop into coverage.
– James Harrison leveraging, steamrolling Eric Fisher. Ouch.
– Good close from Mike Mitchell while fighting through some traffic to stop Thomas on 3rd and 4.
– 4th down stop by the Steelers. No clue what Fisher is doing in the run game. Probably should be working to Timmons, who is first on the tackle, but just flops to the ground on what I guess is a down block. Awful game from him. Maybe one of the worst by a lineman I’ve seen all year.
– PR unit. Antwon Blake/Ross Ventrone as jammers to one side, Brice McCain to the other. Robert Golden, Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Terence Garvin, B.W. Webb, Shamarko Thomas.