Steelers vs Falcons First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations of the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

  • The Steelers opened the game in a running set, with three tight ends on the field, and threw a completion for nine yards. The same formation stayed on the field to convert on second and one, and then once again on a passing play for 18 yards.
  • It wasn’t until the fourth play that they utilized this personnel to run the counter power with David DeCastro pulling left, but the play wasn’t nearly as successful this week. While DeCastro and Will Johnson picked up their blocks on the pull, an extra linebacker squeezed through, forcing Le’Veon Bell to cut inside for a gain of one.
  • On second and nine, the Steelers went five wide with three receivers and ran a screen to Martavis Bryant, with Markus Wheaton blocking, along with Heath Miller. The rookie showed good burst on a gain of 15.
  • Bell picked up his first reception on the following play off play action, making a defender miss and approaching the 25 for a first down.
  • After Bell was stopped for no gain on second down, Ben Roethlisberger was forced to rush his throw on a designed roll out with nobody getting open, and the Steelers settled for an opening drive field goal.
  • He may not be contributing on defense, but Shamarko Thomas is still an asset on special teams, cutting down Devin Hester at the 20-yard line on the ensuing kickoff.
  • To little surprise, Stephon Tuitt continued to start, as he is now listed as a starter in the lineup.
  • In the early goings, Atlanta’s offense looked good, giving the defense fits early as they easily crossed midfield. After Matt Ryan threw behind Harry Douglas on a second down, however, they couldn’t convert on third and eight.
  • On that third down, the Steelers went to the dime defense, using B.W. Webb for the first time as the fourth cornerback. He was not targeted. Ryan was flushed out of the pocket and again missed his receiver throwing on the run.
  • After a punt, the Steelers were backed up inside their own 10. They went with three wide receivers and ran on first down, but the hole quickly collapsed for little gain.
  • On third and two, Roethlisberger was able to escape pressure and dumped it off to Bell, who found his way through the Falcons secondary for a gain of 44 yards. Bryant was quick to identify the play and threw a block.
  • On first and 10 from the 23, Mike Adams failed to pick up a stunt, and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of seven.
  • On the second play, he took a shot into the end zone with Bryant, but the cornerback made a nice play to get his arm on the pass. Antonio Brown only picked up 10 yards on third down, resulting in another field goal.
  • Hester was able to find his way to the outside on the ensuing kickoff, which he returned to the 38-yard line, but Ryan was picked off looking downfield on the first play of the drive by William Gay. He jumped in front of the receiver and high pointed the ball, smartly cutting back when he was bottled up and racing into the end zone for a 52-yard pick six.
  • For the Daniel McCullers fans out there, he was in on the first play of the next drive and helped clog up a run up the middle.
  • After an offensive pass interference call, the Falcons’ drive stalled. Antwon Blake made a nice stop on second down after a short reception by Roddy White. Ryan threw what looked like a duck on third down. There appears to have been a miscommunication between himself and White, with the quarterback believing the receiver would freeze his route.
  • Brown got his first quality punt return since the opening game, returning it out past the 40-yard line with the help of a good block by Darrius Heyward-Bey.
  • On the first play of the drive, the Steelers ran the counter play from the 13 personnel, with Bryant as the lone receiver. It seems the team is beginning to trust his ability to block. Unfortunately, he was chased down from the back side waiting behind Johnson for the hole to develop.
  • On second down, Roethlisberger looked to dump it off to Bell, but the pass was deflected at the line. Brown was short on third and 13.
  • White got past Gay for 34 yards to quickly get the Falcons past midfield on the next drive.
  • McCullers in at nose tackle again on a running play, once again helped bottle up a run for a gain of one. He even assisted at the end of the tackle.
  • The Steelers were caught on the screen game on the next play, however, which was a theme in the game. Troy Polamalu and the inside linebackers were all bottled up as Douglas secured the first down.
  • On second and seven, Jason Worilds blasted Ryan for a big loss, but it was ruled roughing the passer. This changed the course of the drive dramatically as the Falcons went on to score, rather than facing a third and 18 or so.
  • On third and six, Hester caught Blake coming forward and blew past him in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.
  • On first down, Bryant showed some body control to catch a pass at the sticks and then used his size to shield off the defender, fighting for an extra few yards.
  • After throwing incomplete downfield, Wheaton did a nice job of adjusting and catching a pass behind him for nine yards. Bell converted on third and one.
  • With the half ticking away, Roethlisberger heaved a pass down the left sideline to Brown, whose toe-tapping effort gave the Steelers first and goal on the one.
  • Behind a pulling Ramon Foster, Bell was able to walk in fairly unabated for the touchdown to jump ahead 20-7.
  • Ryan Shazier made two tackles before halftime. The first play kept the tight end inbounds with time slipping away. The second one was a tackle off a Ryan scramble after his blitz off the left side chased him out of the pocket.
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