Game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
– Kick return unit. Missing the players between the wedge and front five. Camera angles are always so poor and the lack of returns don’t help. Front five: Anthony Chickillo, Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats, Terence Garvin, Howard Jones. L.T. Walton and Roosevelt Nix made up the wedge, the Steelers seem like they’re using their traditional set now, with Sammie Coates serving as the upback for Dri Archer.
– Markus Wheaton opened up in the slot as the Steelers went into their 11 personnel on the first snap of the game.
– Todd Haley staple on the first play of the game. Essentially, and curls mirrored with flat routes. Haley called it “82 Hank” when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. Pass was complete to Antonio Brown on a curl.
– Team goes empty on the next play. Le’Veon Bell split out wide to the left. Cornerback is playing off coverage opens up his hips, bail technique, on the snap. On a 2nd and 4, it’s an easy decision for Ben Roethlisberger to hit the back on a curl for the first down.
– Steelers run split zone on their first run. Jaguars’ DT and LB attack the same gap, leaving no one for Marcus Gilbert to block. Leaves Bell one-on-one with the safety coming down the alley and you know who’s winning that matchup. Bell is unreal and he gains 19.
– The next run is called G-Lead, with frontside guard David DeCastro pulling. Team did it twice with #66.
What I love about Mike Munchak is his ability to mix and match schemes. On three straight runs you got a split zone, a G-Lead, and an inside zone with a FB leading the way. He’s truly brilliant and flexible and giving defenses plenty to gameplan for.
– Martavis Bryant showing that strength of his, and possibly his added weight, on his touchdown. Practically runs over the cornerback trying to jam him. Future cornerbacks, you’ve been warned. Look at the extension Bryant gets, using his arms and hands well to knock the corner off balanced.
– Two point conversion play was a designed rub route with Bell running under Miller, who’d take off vertically down the seam. Defense took it away and forced a scramble drill. What Wheaton does really well. Works hard to follow his quarterback. As Ben begins to slide to his right, Wheaton runs that way. And then Ben moves left, Wheaton stopping and coming back to the football. Pass is complete.
– Kick coverage in no particular order: Shakim Phillips, B.W. Webb, Howard Jones, Alden Darby, Ian Wild, Doran Grant, Jordan Sullen, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Arthur Moats, and kicker Garrett Hartley.
– On that kickoff, the sad part is the upback and one of the wedge players didn’t even touch anyone. One sort of got in the way of Phillips but no contact was made. The biggest obstacle for the Jaguars was the return man tripping over his own guy.
Lot of failure on this play though Webb getting shoved way out of his gap was of note.
– First Jacksonville run. Ryan Shazier does a wonderful job of staying clean, flowing down the line, and filling the lane, making the tackle on the back. He’s looking really good against the run. Staying on his feet, one of his biggest issues in 2014.
– William Gay’s hit on Julius Thomas broke his finger and knocked him out for the preseason. That’s what you have to love about the Steelers’ cornerback. That sort of physicality never goes away, no matter how old you are. One reason why this guy has stayed in the league and he can play for another 2-3 years.
– Same play, a 3rd and 3. Like we saw last week, Steelers bring a safety off the edge and drop the NT/away side OLB.
– Punt return team: Doran Grant and Webb were the jammers. On the line: Chickillo, Jesse James, Shayon Green, Wild, and Josh Harris.
– First series for Landry Jones. Third and nine and the Steelers run a draw. Part of their script but I hate seeing a guy not get a chance to air it out. Of course, he threw it an incredible 46 times so in hindsight, really can’t quibble with it.
– Punt coverage team. Coates and Webb the gunners. Ian Wild the upback. Jordan Dangerfield and Roosevelt Nix the wings. On the line: Green, Howard Jones, Arthur Moats, Chickillo.
Wild got lit up on the play but to his credit got back up and tried to join the play late.
– While we’re on the topic for special teams, punter hangtimes. Because the director cut late to one, I don’t have one of Brad Wing’s punts recorded.
Brad Wing: 4.00, 4.67, 4.54
Jordan Berry: 4.72, 5.21
Berry’s second one traveled 51 yards and 5.21 seconds. That’s impressive and he’s really coming on strong after a quiet start to camp.
– Steelers’ first defensive play. 4-3 over. Similar to last week. Issue here is there is no one in the playside A gap, creating a big running lane.
– 4-3 over vs a 12 personnel, the tight ends to the same side. That’s been the most common alert for them to show this 4-3 look.
– Quick look at your standard Tampa 2. Four man rush, CB playing curl/flat, linebackers in hook zones with the MIKE getting a lot of depth, safeties splitting the field into halves.
– James Harrison’s rip move is legendary. If he isn’t going to Canton, that move should.
– Dupree has to understand he can’t end up here and be a successful pass rusher. Can’t keep floating upfield, taking himself out of the play. Needs to give up on that plan and counter inside.
– Strong safety blitz with Sean Spence replacing him, covering the slot receiver.
– L.T Walton mixed in with the first team nickel alongside Cam Heyward. Butler had him drop and carry the RB into the flat. He’s a good enough athlete to give him that kind of assignment.
– Steelers continue to run a lot of pistol. Probably something you’ll see sprinkled into the 2015 season.
– Fold block here, Cody Wallace pulling overtop of David DeCastro. Ramon Foster with a nice second level block, too.
– Like Dave Bryan said, DeAngelo Williams did a really nice job in blitz pickup. All the backs did, really. But Williams had at least two cut blocks, including this one below.
– Really like seeing this physicality from Shazier. Fearless, meets the FB in the hole, staying on his feet.
– Nice effort and run to the ball from Ethan Hemer, chasing a screen about 20 yards downfield.
– Sky look from the Steelers’ defense. Shamarko Thomas becomes the flat defender. Four under, three over coverage. Saw it several times.
– Y cross again killing the Steelers. Nearly a big catch to Clay Harbor, who luckily dropped the ball. But he was open and it should have been six.
– First Cover Two “blunder.” A lot of people will blame Alden Darby for not taking that throw away but I’m more lenient. He’s being asked to disguise the shell, bailing to gain depth on the snap, then go back into his pedal, and then finding the ball and breaking on it. Only to cover a route on the edge of the sideline. Tall task, especially for a young guy.
– Walton getting overextended as a pass rusher, winding up on the ground.
– Next play. Walton double-teamed and run out of the play. Bad spot to be in, and few are going to look good, but I’ve always heard it coached that if you feel like you’re going to get blown out of the lane by a double-team, turn your shoulder and collapse, basically becoming dead weight and clogging the lane.
– With Gay and Cortez Allen’s day done, B.W. Webb became the RCB and Brandon Boykin slid to the nickel. Antwon Blake at LCB, of course.
– Alejandro Villanueva had an up and down day, as we’ll talk about throughout. Flatback on his punch and beat around the edge.
– Veteran play by Darrius Heyward-Bey to sit down in the soft spot on the zone. Settles immediately inside the first flat defender. Slant/flat concept to widen that flat defender, opening up the curl.
– Solid backside cut by Mitchell Van Dyk on this zone run away.
– For housekeeping purposes, Shayon Green came in at ROLB ahead of Howard Jones.
– In the two minute drill, Will Johnson was the lone, true Y tight end.
– Chris Hubbard’s struggles continue. Opens the gate, something he did against the Minnesota Vikings, to allow the defensive tackle to penetrate. Has to stay square instead of opening up that inside hip.
– Mitchell Van Dyk loses his base and gives up the edge. Villanueva uprighted by a good punch. Lots of pressure put on Jones. Going to happen when both tackles fail.
– Like Williams, Dri Archer sacrificed his body to act as a speed bump, cutting this linebacker.
– Miss stunt pickup between Hubbard and Villanueva results in a sack, ending the drive. Neither came off their man.
– Kick coverage to open the half. Kevin Fogg, Tyler Murphy, Shayon Green, Sammie Coates, Gerod Holliman, Roosevelt Nix, Jordan Dangerfield, Jesse James, Kenzel Doe, Ray Hamilton.
So if you want to get angry about that coverage unit, realize it’s made up of three receivers and two tight ends. Not something you’re going to see in Week One.
– Holliman had a nice, and his first, tackle on the opening kickoff. Kudos to him.
– Second team defense to start. Matt Conrath/Mike Thornton/Joe Kruger. Bud Dupree/Shayon Green. Sean Spence/Ryan Shazier. Kevin Fogg/B.W. Webb. Jordan Dangerfield/Ian Wild.
– Dupree has flat responsibility here but is overthinking it, not getting width to defend it. Guy is in your zone, take away that threat. Don’t make it more complicated in that.
Pass is complete on third and two and you just can’t allow that.
– Great job by Kruger to two gap. Good punch to get his arms extended and works off the block to make the tackle.
– I don’t know if this is a read or a call but man, Landry Jones passed up this bubble screen to hit the RB on a screen to the other side a couple times. Just seems like the smarter play with some easy yards.
– Cover 2 man on third and eight. Cornerbacks being very physical, especially Grant at the bottom.
– Active eyes from Hubbard, helping out Villanueva when the tackle gets beat inside. That’s what we like to see from Mother Hubbard.
– Punt coverage. Sullen and Grant at gunner. Darby the upback. Line: James, HoJo, Dangerfield, Moats, Green, and Hamilton.
– Punt return unit: Fogg/Holliman one set of jammers, Sullen/Murphy on the other side. On the line: Nix, HoJo, Hemer, Walton, Phillips, Hamilton.
– Good Villanueva this time. Like we saw last week, when he moves laterally and uses that strength, he’ll shove guys upfield with little issue.
– Zone block. Defensive tackle into Hubbard’s pads, leverages him, and the guard is called for the hold. Running back forced to bounce way wide.
– Like Jawon Chisholm’s vision and explosion. Change of direction and gets downhill in a hurry. Practice squad worthy, no doubt.
– Long second half kick return. Holliman and Dangerfield wind up on the ground, helping to open that crease. Basically left with a bunch of receivers left to tackle him.
– Great vision by Terence Garvin. Stays clean, run fill, square to the runner, makes the tackle at the line.
– Dupree is normally a hard worker but there were times where he basically…stopped at the top of his rush. Just assumed the ball would be out. Have to finish, rookie.
– Villanueva struggles to seal the edge and the defensive end hits Jones’ arm, nearly causing a fumble.
– Kelvin Palmer making up for last week’s mistake. Remember the breakdown of him failing to “read his triangle.” Same situation here but Palmer does read it, pinching in, showing active eyes, before finding someone to stick to.
– Kenzel Doe not showing a great base on this punt return. Weight backwards. Winds up fumbling.
– Kudos to Landry Jones (runs from the comments section) for feeling the rush and climbing the pocket. Resets his feet and completes the pass to Jesse James, who made a spectacular diving grab.
– More good from Villanueva. Active eyes to pick up the blitz. Slides down initially, sees it, picks up the blitz, and has that crazy strength to shove and knock down the linebacker.
– Kudos to Green for the forced fumble. Making a splash play on special teams is the way to Danny Smith’s heart.
– A slay (slant/flat) concept to C.J. Goodwin on the touchdown. Great job by Goodwin to hold onto the ball, taking a nasty blow.
– Holliman definitely didn’t touch the receiver on his personal foul “penalty.” Bad call by the refs.
– Textbook play by Kevin Fogg to break up the slant on the goal line. Difficult route/situation to defend.
– Miles Dieffenbach walked back into the pocket.
– Credit to Reese Dismukes for showing more active eyes than last week. Against Minnesota, he was really quick to latch on to a lineman if he was uncovered.
– Anthony Chickillo swim, shed, tackle late in the game.
– Landry Jones’ throw rolling to the left to Coates was perfect. His best throw…ever.
– Kevin Whimpey and Collin Rahrig didn’t play. B.J. Finney had a better game across the board.