My game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers 43-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
– Kick return unit. Front five: Vince Williams, Sean Spence, Ross Ventrone, Terence Garvin, and Shamarko Thomas. Robert Golden next right behind them. The wedge included Will Johnson, Matt Spaeth, and Roosevelt Nix with Jordan Todman the upback for Dri Archer.
– Third play of the game. Steelers run a common screen concept from Todd Haley. Screen with a drag route to the other side if Ben Roethlisberger wants it. Play is busted though and Ben has to eat it, unfortunately.
– 3×1. Isolate Antonio Brown to the bottom of the screen. 49ers try to disguise their Cover 2 by playing Eric Reid in the box pre-snap but it means he has trouble getting to his landmark after the snap. Roethlisberger puts it in the bucket to AB for a completion. And Brown is tough, taking the shot.
– Skinny post to Markus Wheaton. Cornerback has outside leverage and there’s no safety help to that side. Easy play given the matchup.
– Still wishing Marcus Gilbert would carry his hands up closer to his chest, instead of letting his arms dangle at his sides. Causes his punch to be low and ineffective, doubling over and getting beat initially by Aaron Lynch. Not shown but Gilbert did recover well, I’ll give him that.
– Punt coverage: Antwon Blake and Ventrone the gunners with Golden the upback. Will Allen and Spaeth served as the wings. Spence, Johnson, Greg Warren, Garvin, and Williams on the line.
– Ryan Shazier’s instincts and reaction is pretty incredible. Has already crossed over and planted his right foot before barely Lawrence Timmons and Arthur Moats have even gotten their right foot off the ground.
– Nice flow and spacing by the frontside players on this zone run. Forces the cutback.
Thought they played with great gap integrity and spacing. How you have to do it to slow down those zone runs.
– William Gay making a veteran move to play the pocket and knock the ball out of Anquan Boldin’s usually sure hands. Gets his defense off the field.
– Punt coverage: Antwon Blake and Darrius Heyward-Bey jammers to one side, Shamarko Thomas and Ross Ventrone jammers to the other. On the line: Johnson, Golden, Garvin, Bud Dupree, Williams, and Spence.
– RPO for Ben. Throw the screen to AB with the CB giving soft coverage and bailing off the snap. Turns into a 17 yard gain. Elongated run game, high percentage completion, and gets the ball to your playmakers.
– Steelers had thrown the bubble screen several times during the first quarter. Then pumped off it to take a vertical shot in the end zone to Wheaton. Pass was incomplete but dig the idea. Using one play off of another. That’s being creative as an offensive coordinator.
– Flood concept on the first touchdown. Heath Miller open for six.
– Steelers two point plays were the exact same play. TE middle screen. Roethlisberger just decided to hit Brown on a speed out on the first attempt. But concept wasn’t different one bit.
– Kick coverage from left to right: Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Ross Ventrone, Terence Garvin, Vince Williams, Josh Scobee, Sean Spence, Jarvis Jones, Antwon Blake, Jordan Todman, and Brandon Boykin.
– Run defense becomes a whole lot easier when your lineman take up for blockers, leaving your linebackers free.
– Steve McLendon with a fantastic job of keeping his playside arm/hand free. Not getting scooped and forcing the cutback.
– Blake had no idea where the ball was on this QB keeper around the edge. Thought it was still inside on the dive.
– Nice job to shed and wrap by Lawrence Timmons.
– Phenomenal close and hustle by Cameron Heyward. Things we’ve come to expect from 97.
– Penetration by McLendon and Heyward doesn’t allow the cutback. DL winning at the POA.
– 10 men on the field here, the first of two times the Steelers would do this today. Nose tackle never came on. Stephon Tuitt slides over into the A gap to act like it while Bud Dupree rolls back down to the line.
No worries though. Steelers still tackled Carlos Hyde for a four yard loss and drew a holding penalty.
Seriously though, team has to clean that up. Ten men happened twice Sunday making it four times in two games. Unacceptable, even with a new defensive coordinator.
– Heyward was a monster Sunday. Reads the screen, tracks the back down, doesn’t get blocked, takes the runner down by himself.
– Alejandro Villanueva was inserted into the field goal block unit.
– Even when Antonio Brown is blanketed, Roethlisberger has no qualms looking his way. No QB should make this throw but there’s so much trust, Ben does anyway. And of course, Brown catches it.
– Ramon Foster giving help to Kelvin Beachum, delivering the knockout blow. This is what we mean when we say “find work.”
– Brown does need to become a better run blocker though. His one weakness. Falls off this stalk block, preventing the chance for DeAngelo Williams to bust off a big gain.
– Watch right tackle Marcus Gilbert welcome rookie Jaquiski Tartt to the NFL. Decleator.
– Roosevelt Nix replaced Blake on the ensuing kickoff. Ditto for Ross Cockrell over Brandon Boykin.
– On that kickoff, Nix literally flung his body into a blocker, who fell backwards and into the kick returner. Dude is crazy.
– This is what I love to see from Ryan Shazier. We know he’s fast, he’s athletic, but here he stacks the block and sheds, making the tackle for a loss. That’s playing inside linebacker in the NFL.
– Blake and Shazier blitz off the edge. 49ers are sliding that way but don’t pass Heyward off correctly and he comes in free up the middle. Blitz creating chaos.
– Steelers set up Ross Ventrone way inside to block the 49ers gunner, who as I noted in my scouting report, almost always took a hard inside lane. Stuff him here and the 49ers are forced to adjust later, motioning the gunner inside to give him a better angle.
– Shamarko Thomas lit up one of the 49ers on that punt. Mike Mitchell, hyped, storms out onto the field to chest bump him.
– Darrius Heyward-Bey splitting the two high safety look on a post for his 41 yard touchdown. Speed kills.
– Roethlisberger feels the pocket so well. Bumping off players, pocket shifting, but he keeps his eyes downfield and completes the pass to Miller.
– 49ers clipping penalty. Why it’s illegal. Steelers lucky Daniel McCullers didn’t get seriously hurt here.
– Jarvis Jones line up as an ILB. Stunts with Arthur Moats, Moats dipping inside. Frees him up for the sack. Total protection breakdown from San Fran.
– Kudos to Timmons for carrying the Y down the seam in this Tampa 2 look. Forced a tight window and an incompletion.
– Boldin found the soft spot in the team’s Cover 2 on his drop. Between the corner and safety down the sideline.
– Steelers saw this on the tape in Week One. 3rd and 1 boot right off the right hash. Snuffed it out and had Moats in Kaepernick’s face immediately. Pass was incomplete.
– Nice job by McCullers to hold the POA and then fill the gap. Also check out Ryan Shazier cutting in front of Timmons and filling. Those are instincts.
– Steve McLendon worked off the left guard and Shazier off the fullback to meet the running back on this goalline stuff.
– Timmons doing a fantastic job staying with the play and working over the route on 4th down. Didn’t give up and was able to push Bruce Miller out of bounds, knocking the ball out and saving the touchdown.
– Thought Greg Warren did a nice job snapping and then sliding to his right to pick up his man on this 8 man rush with the Steelers backed up on their goalline. Not as easy as it sounds. So giving the long snapper some love.
– Vernon Davis’ long catch. Again, Cover 2. Y cross from Davis and with a receiver in the flat, who Gay takes, it basically works the same as a smash concept. #1 clearout to hold the free safety and Davis has a whole lot of green.
– Coverage looks like Cover 3 Cloud with William Gay, to the bottom of the screen squatting to cover the flat.
– Dupree’s sack. Right tackle Erik Pears barely touches the rookie. Dupree with a great get off.
– Anquan Boldin did shove Brandon Boykin at the top of his route on the TD, though I would have liked to see better pre-snap outside leverage by Boykin to funnel Boldin inside. Instead, he gets on his toes and is able to separate on the corner route.
– The look a linebacker gives when you’re tasked with covering Markus Wheaton for five seconds…
– DeAngelo Williams got tripped up at the half yard line and lost the ball after he went down. A 49ers player scrambled and jumped on the ball. As Ramon Foster came over, he literally took the ball out of the 49ers’ hand and clutched it in his belly as if to say, “This is my ball!”
– And then Foster pulls Williams into the end zone on the next play. Gotta love 73.
– Same play. As everyone is celebrating, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Ben Roethlisberger help up Kelvin Beachum. True team players.
– Excellent display of two-gapping from Cam Heyward. Keeps eyes on the runner, mirrors him, and then sheds and makes the tackle.
– Torrey Smith splitting the safeties on his 75 yard TD. Not an easy assignment but Will Allen’s lack of athleticism is a little exposed here.
– James Harrison getting low around the edge against Joe Staley, one of the best left tackles in the league.
– Nice arm extension by Jarvis Jones on this bull rush to get past Staley.
– Will Johnson and Jordan Todman worked over Dri Archer as the backup running back the last two weeks. That tells you all you need to know about how little they value him as a running back.
– Markus Wheaton took Troy Polamalu’s place as the Steeler to dot the victory formation. That makes me sad.