Week One: Steelers Vs Patriots First Half Notes And Observations

The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered an opening day loss by the score of 28-21 against the New England Patriots. Below are some notes and observations upon reviewing the first half of the game.

  • Unsurprisingly, the Steelers opened up the game out of a 12 look, which figures to be their most talented personnel package until Martavis Bryant returns from suspension.
  • On the first play, DeAngelo Williams cut back a run after spotting the strong safety filling the gap to the left side, finding space around the right-side D gap, breaking one tackle and pounding through another for an 18-yard run to open the game.
  • Both tight ends motioned to the right side on the following play, with Heath Miller driving Malcolm Butler out of the play down the field on a nine-yard gain for Antonio Brown.
  • Williams did well to make Dont’a Hightower miss in the backfield after Kelvin Beachum was unable to block him.
  • The Steelers took Markus Wheaton off the field, inserting Will Johnson as the third tight end to present a run-heavy look, running the run-pass option, which resulted in a 14-yard pass to Miller.
  • Williams took the handoff on a draw and following the blocking of Marcus Gilbert and Cody Wallace for another first down.
  • I’ve already touched on this subject, but Todd Haley’s decision to run a gadget play at this juncture goes against his own previously expressed philosophy of not doing anything to risk knocking yourself out of scoring range when you get there. Putting a wide receiver at quarterback is adding a degree of discomfort and raises the risk of a negative play. In this case, it resulted in an eight-yard loss.
  • Gilbert was called for a hold on the following play, however, exacerbating the issue, stalling the drive, and giving way to Josh Scobee’s first of two missed field goals. In case you were wondering, the hold was clean.
  • On the Patriots’ second play, the Steelers lined James Harrison in the slot across from Julian Edelman. The linebacker was slow to cover the flat zone as Edelman worked to the third level, however, resulting in an easy pitch and catch for Dion Lewis.
  • On the following play, it was Jarvis Jones’ turn to drop into coverage, missing the tackle on Lewis at the left sideline, proceeded by a missed tackle from Ryan Shazier on the same play, resulting in a first down.
  • With Will Allen starting, he found himself in coverage against Rob Gronkowski a fair bit. He did well to jam the All-Pro tight end at the line on his first target, who was also picked by Antwon Blake in the process, resulting in an incomplete pass.
  • It was the Steelers getting picked on the following play, however, which would have resulted in a long gain, if not a touchdown, had Tom Brady not overthrown Danny Amendola down the right sideline.
  • As the Steelers moved to their nickel on third and 10, Harrison re-entered—his one earlier snap was to fill in after Jones was punched in the helmet—and rookie Bud Dupree also came on. Unblocked, Dupree was able to chase down Brady as he was flushed out of the pocket, taking him down for a sack for no gain.
  • The Steelers were backed up deep in their own territory following a punt, but Williams picked up six yards on first down after once again eluding a defender at the line of scrimmage.
  • Beachum, however, was beaten on a second-effort inside move from Chandler Jones, who was able to seize Williams’ leg and bring him down for a loss of one.
  • Brown bailed out his team, and his quarterback, on third and five after Antonio Brown’s pass was wide left, but the All-Pro was able to pick the ball off the cornerback’s helmet.
  • After getting beat a couple plays, Beachum was flagged for an illegal formation penalty, setting himself too far back off the line of scrimmage, hoping to cheat in his protection. And Jones still beat him inside.
  • On second and 12, Wallace failed to pick up Hightower blitzing straight through the A gap, who was able to wrestle down Roethlisberger after much effort, and a second missed block attempt from Wallace for good measure.
  • The line held well on third and 18, however, but the result was only a 17-yard pass to Miller, with Mike Tomlin not risking anything this early and sending Jordan Berry out for his first punt. It traveled 50 yards, with an added 10 for good measure after Shamarko Thomas drew an illegal block as the left-side gunner.
  • Facing a second and 11 after a holding penalty, Cortez Allen’s tackle attempt following a reception by Edelman ended up launching the receiver forward about four or five yards to set up third and two.
  • Which was converted by Edelman on an end around, with the Steelers in their quarters package and Harrison lined up on the left side of the defense—the play side. The veteran was late to read the sweep and was caught trailing to make the tackle nine yards down the field.
  • Shazier flashed the height of his abilities on the following play, shooting the gap and twisting the running back down for a loss in the backfield, something that we figure to see a couple of times a game.
  • The Steelers shifted Blake to the slot on Edelman, who beat the cornerback off the line, winning inside for an easy third-down conversion. It was a losing matchup for the defense throughout the night.
  • The defense suffered one of their many communication breakdowns on the final two plays of the drive, on the first ending up with Robert Golden scolding Arthur Moats for not carrying Gronkowski, who made the reception for a sizable gain.
  • Steve McLendon was lined up at defensive end on the play, with Daniel McCullers at nose tackle.
  • There was some erroneous reporting that the Steelers had only 10 men on the following play that saw Gronkowski initially uncovered before the snap that resulted in a touchdown, but they indeed had all 11. They were aligned in their base package.
  • Blake showed poor effort on the play, which has not been his calling card.
  • The Steelers seemed destined for a three-and out after Roethlisberger overthrew Miller on second down, but he was able to find Darrius Heyward-Bey down the right sideline for a long gain on third and eight over Bradley Fletcher. The veteran won off the line and used his speed to track the ball for an over the shoulder catch.
  • After two positive runs by Williams, however, Roethlisberger threw behind Brown, and the Steelers were greeted with a second Scobee miss.
  • After a first-down play, Jones showed a great punch to knock the left tackle off his base, winning inside easily to record a tackle for no gain. He bullrushed him back into the pocket on second down, but Brady was able to complete the play to Amendola.
  • Following four straight running plays just before, the Steelers were caught selling on the run against a four-tight end set on second and goal, which allowed Gronkowski to get free for his second touchdown of the game.
  • Getting the ball with four minutes before halftime, the offense got off to a good start before Wallace was called for a hold at the second level. Roethlisberger got things back on track with another long gain on third down, however, this time to Brown.
  • It was soon after that the questionable clock management started. The Steelers ended up facing a fourth and three with only 48 seconds left on the 35-yard line, having not used any timeouts.
  • The Steelers chose not to used one after the conversion, leaving 19 seconds at the snap with two timeouts still in their pocket. Heyward-Bey’s would-be touchdown was called back because his right foot was on the boundary line.
  • Roethlisberger was forced to rush his final throw, which fell incomplete, due to pressure allowed up the middle by Wallace.
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