Week Five Steelers Vs Chargers First Half Notes And Observations

The Pittsburgh Steelers topped the San Diego Chargers on Monday night by squeaking by on a last-second touchdown, securing the 24-20 victory. Below are my notes and observations in review of the first half of the game.

  • Though the Steelers have been rather successful running the ball, they are still susceptible to negative runs, which is more often than not caused by miscommunication upfront. On the first play of the game, they ran an inside zone run with left tackle Kelvin Beachum coming underneath left guard Ramon Foster. The two looked to switch defenders, but Foster was unable to secure the linebacker, Manti Te’o, in time, and Beachum failed to pick him up as the nearest defender, which forced Le’Veon Bell to vacate the hole before he was stopped for a loss of one.
  • On the following play, however, Mike Vick did show arm and accuracy going down the field to Heath Miller for 26 yards, which he will need to do more of on Sunday.
  • The Steelers then turned to the Wildcat, which they hadn’t shown at all in 2014, to my recollection. On the first play, he handed the ball off to DeAngelo Williams.
  • Shamarko Thomas has gotten a lot of grief for his boneheaded fair catch interference penalty, which is admittedly deserved, but that does not diminish his overall strength as a special teams contributor. On the Steelers’ first punt of the game, he immediately beat the gunner off the line of scrimmage and could have caught that punt himself as well, instead settling for forcing a fair catch.
  • The Steelers had trouble getting the blitz home against Philip Rivers all night, which should not have been surprising, as Rivers is one of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the game. He certainly welcomed the return of Antonio Gates as well, as evidenced from the first play of the game.
  • Safety Will Allen only played eight snaps before leaving with an ankle injury, but he still managed to notch a missed tackle, taking a poor angle in coming up behind Gates for his second reception in as many plays.
  • The Steelers showed eight pre-snap at the line of scrimmage on play three, and Rivers dumped it off to Danny Woodhead at the sideline, who had open field after making one defender miss.
  • One player who certainly did not have the same performance in this game was Ross Cockrell, who missed tackles on back-to-back plays, including on the Woodhead screen that drew a facemask penalty. On the following play, he missed a tackle on Melvin Gordon at the line of scrimmage.
  • On the following play, Allen slipped in his back pedal, which helped Gates cut underneath him for an easy 12-yard touchdown.
  • Williams does not get many carries these days, but when he does, he often shows the patience and vision that has made Bell so successful. On the first play of the Steelers’ second drive, he was able to make a defender miss in the hole by bouncing outside before spinning back around into the hole for a five-yard gain.
  • The Cody Wallace fan club seems to be growing by the day, especially after the news about Maurkice Pouncey that an infection could potentially cause him to miss the rest of the season. The truth is that he had his best game of the season as a run blocker—which is to say that he sufficed—but he still was unable to hold his own in pass protection. He nearly got Vick killed after missing a stunt on the second play of the drive.
  • Oh, by the way, it was Thomas how forced a fair catch on the Steelers’ second punt as well.
  • The Steelers may have gotten their best game out of Sean Spence, which they may need again if Ryan Shazier continues to sit out.
  • On his second play of the game, James Harrison got to the quarterback and drew a holding penalty.
  • Allen injured his ankle bringing down Gordon with a leg tackle on a screen pass to force a third and long. Robert Golden replaced him for the remainder of the game.
  • Facing a third and four, the Steelers aligned Antonio Brown in the slot to the left side, with Jason Verrett shadowing him. Brown and Miller ran a pick play that bought the receiver early separation, while the safety crossing the field to cover Bell coming out of the backfield delivered a second pick. By that time, Brown was wide open and running up the right sideline for 39 yards.
  • Verrett nearly got a ‘pick’ of his own two plays later, however, after Bell allowed pressure in pass protection and induced a poor throw from Vick.
  • Do I know what Thomas was thinking on that fair catch interference penalty? No. But I do know he got down there fast enough to catch the punt himself, again. Let’s hope it was just a momentary lapse in judgement, as I can’t imagine him repeating that mistake.
  • Credit is deserved where it is due, and Antwon Blake does make a strong tackle here and there. He was quick to get on Gordon on the last play of the first quarter to help bring him down for a loss of one.
  • The Chargers were flagged for holding Cameron Heyward for the first of a handful of times on the night on the play after, setting up a second and 21.
  • On the aforementioned second down, Golden initially did a nice job of directing Gordon into contact from his teammates, but when he went in for the tackle himself, he completely forgot to use his arms.
  • The Steelers’ subsequent drive resulted in a three-and-out after Vick threw too wide for Markus Wheaton on third down on what should have been a safe completion and conversion.
  • It was Thomas who made the tackle after a short return, coming from the opposite side of the field after defeating vice jammers, on Jacoby Jones after a 56-yard punt.
  • In fairness to Golden and Cockrell, they came up with stops on back-to-back plays on the Chargers’ next drive, with Golden making a solid leg tackle in the hole on Gordon on first down, and Cockrell breaking up a pass on second down.
  • The Steelers ran four straight times with Roosevelt Nix serving as lead blocker, gaining 8, 4, 9, and 25 yards on those plays. On the next two plays, Bell lost a combined nine yards. Will Johnson missed a stunt to allow penetration on the first play, and Miller did not pick up the eventual tackler pulling to the left on the second play.
  • It should not be understated the importance of Bell’s eight-yard reception that followed on third and 19. It got the Steelers back into field goal range for a 47-yarder after being knocked back to the 37-yard line.
  • Jarvis Jones notched his first sack of the season after hitting Rivers for a seven-yard loss on second down, but credit also goes to Heyward, who absolutely steamrolled the left guard into the quarterback’s face. Heyward’s pressure on third down also forced Rivers to throw a duck downfield that hung up too short for his tight end.
  • Thomas forced Jacoby Jones to call for a fair catch at the seven-yard line at the far hash mark at the end of the first half as well.
  • The Chargers were able to drive down from their own seven to the 40-yard line, but when James Harrison made a stop for a two-yard loss, the drive stalled at the 42, and they missed on a 60-yard field goal attempt.
  • Vick’s only turnover since taking over at quarterback followed on a hail mary pass, but he certainly could have had four or five others over that span.
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