Steelers Vs. Falcons Game Rewind – First Half

Breakdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15.

First Half

– Kick return unit. Front five: Arthur Moats, Vince Williams, Robert Golden, Sean Spence, Antwon Blake. Matt Spaeth/Michael Palmer, Cody Wallace/Will Johnson form the wedge, and Josh Harris served as the upback for Markus Wheaton.

– Pointed it out a couple times but wanted to show it with the All-22 tape. Cornerback plays bail technique (open-hipped shuffle), making it easy to run the dig. DB can’t close in time.



– Steelers motion Heath Miller on this Power O in an attempt to even up the numbers against the eighth man in the box but the assignments need tweaked. Miller down blocks the end but pushes him into Kelvin Beachum, who gets knocked down and can’t work to the second level.



The backside linebacker is able to fill and make the stop.


Have to change the assignments. Miller can’t down block. Base him to the SS and have David DeCastro kick out the end.

– Kelvin Beachum has really shown himself to be a tremendous technician the last two weeks. Hand fighting with Kroy Biermann, gets turned but he sticks his outside foot in the ground, swivels, and gets back square to his defender.




– Same play. Kudos to Ben Roethlisberger for knowing where his checkdown was at, hitting Le’Veon Bell for a gain of 11.

– Back to Le’Veon Bell and his ability to make something out of nothing. Jump cut down a gap to pick up five. Most backs would have been stuffed at the line.



– It’s a difficult assignment to block in space but Miller has been missing his cut blocks on this split zone the last few weeks. Happens again here.


– Kick coverage unit from L-R. Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone, Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Shaun Suisham, Jarvis Jones, BW Webb, Antwon Blake, Will Allen, Darrius Heyward-Bey.

– Love the closing speed from William Gay. Man, off coverage trying to defend this drag. Closes quickly and makes the tackle. And who knows, if Gay doesn’t stop him, there’s a chance it could have gone for a big gain. We’ll show it in pictures and a GIF below.



– Curious play by Sean Spence. He might be trying to initially protect the edge but he’s extremely slow I recognizing Steven Jackson up the middle running downhill. It turns into a 12 yard gain for Atlanta.


– But he redeems himself the next play. Stack, scrape the RT, fill, tackle. Way you coach it from your ILB.



– PR Unit. Brice McCain/Ross Ventrone as jammers to one side with Antwon Blake to the other. Others: Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Shamarko Thomas, Sean Spence, Robert Golden.

– Kudos to Martavis Bryant for a veteran play on Bell’s 44 yard catch and run. As soon as Bell makes the grab, Bryant turns and looks for a block. Ends up getting a piece of a DB, enough to spring the back. Subtle but a big time play. Bryant has become a solid blocker because of his natural length and effort.



– Same play. He was eventually caught but it’s just fun to see Bell out running an entire defense.


– Instead of Mike Adams attempting to run downfield to pickup the linebacker, the only unblocked defender, he decides to wait for a trailing 345 pound nose tackle. Not sure why…



– Big fan of DeCastro’s anchor in pass protection consistently through the year. This game no exception. Takes on that aforementioned 345 pound nose tackle Paul Soliai by himself. Doesn’t get walked back.


– 3rd and 17 concept to set up Shaun Suisham’s 38 yard field goal. Stack receivers to force the corners off and give a free release for AB on a slant. Picks up 10. Simple, efficient concept.



Vince Williams forces a double-team from the Falcons’ wedge on the ensuing kickoff but Garvin can’t finish the tackle. Difficult to do versus Devin Hester though. Good thing is the Steelers didn’t let a good return become a great one.



– Steelers did well to control and at times, dominate, Falcons’ rookie UDFA center James Stone. Less than 300 pounds, Daniel McCullers didn’t have much issue on this play. Holds the point of attack well. Barely even moved off his base from the initial chip. Impressive play and it results in just a two yard run for the Falcons.

– Pretty obvious overload from the Steelers. Four players to the offense’s left side of the ball compared to just one on the right. Cam Heyward zone drops into coverage. Matt Ryan completes it to his hot receiver.


– No spill defender and Spence pushed down by the pulling tight end. Devonta Freeman gains ten.



– Really don’t like Jarvis Jones’ bull rush. Gets no push and is easily absorbed.


However, it’s definitely worth mentioning he’s a guy playing with a cast and someone who couldn’t lift for a long time. Strength isn’t back. But I question what he’s got even when – if – he’s fully healthy this year.

– Steelers don’t run many true CAT (corner) blitzes from an outside corner. But used it a few times Sunday. Guessing because the Falcons like to line their receivers with such a reduced split, it’s not as obvious or as far to run for an outside CB.


– Ryan Shazier…HELLO! Rookie with a big hit on Brown’s 31 yard punt return. Pictures probably don’t do it justice.



Heyward-Bey also had an important block, knocking down the gunner as AB caught the punt.

– Running versus eight in the back. Run away from the SS but he’s able to flow freely from the backside and make the tackle from behind. Disappointing because other than that, it’s blocked well and has the potential for a big gain.



– Punt coverage: Antwon Blake/Ross Ventrone the gunners. Line from the L-R. Michael Palmer – Vince Williams – Terence Garvin – Greg Warren – Will Johnson – Sean Spence – Will Allen – Robert Golden.

– Again, Spence finds himself on the ground. Has to stay on your feet to play in this league.


– Vince Williams flashing that closing speed again. Works over the block, too.

Troy Polamalu still has that burst. Falcons try to motion WR Eric Weems to crack him but to no avail. 43 flies through and wraps Jackson up at the LOS.



– Williams needs to make this tackle on the perimeter against the speedy Freeman. Misses.


– Sean Spence with that “see to do” but credit to Heyward, Moats, and Timmons for holding the POA. No gaps available for the back.


Devin Hester’s TD. Zone coverage with a nickel and safety blitz. Antwon Blake is responsible for reading 1 to 2, carrying anything vertical. And he plays it correctly. Once #1 starts to chop, he sticks his eyes to #2 – Hester – and tries to run vertically on the seam route. But Hester is fast and Blake probably isn’t as explosive as he could have been with his turn. The Falcons score.




– Nice route by Wheaton. Doesn’t drift on his cut on the quick dig.



– Steelers have some 3rd down plays out of empty with Bell being the primary receiver. Doubt many teams can say the same about their RB.

– Big Ben misses this throw to Lance Moore. Gotta hit an open receiver. Front foot doesn’t appear to be pointed in the right direction. Behind the receiver and that’s where the pass winds up. Front toe directs the football.



– Nice snag by Wheaton. Pass thrown behind but he makes the catch.


– I’ve been critical of Mike Adams. And although he appears to hit the DE in the face, it doesn’t get called so let’s celebrate the play. Violent punch from 76, knocking the end down.



– Check out the body lean on Antonio Brown’s catch at the end of the half. Such incredible body control.


– Key blocks by Ramon Foster and Adams on Bell’s first TD. Opens up the running lane to spring the back into the end zone.


– Nice wrap up from Ryan Shazier to keep tight end Bear Pascoe in bounds at the end of the half.


– Where Cam Heyward is on the throw.


And guess who runs down to make the tackle?


Heyward is an animal.

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