Game Rewind: Steelers vs Bengals Game Notes

My weekly game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.

First Half

– Kick return unit. The front five: Arthur Moats, Sean Spence, Vince Williams, Bud Dupree, and Shamarko Thomas. Robert Golden on the next line. Matt Spaeth, Will Johnson, and Roosevelt Nix make up the wedge. Jordan Todman the upback for Dri Archer.

Dre Kirkpatrick getting route running 101 schooling courtesy of Antonio Brown. Look at the separation AB gets at the top of the route.

– Designed flea flicker fullback screen. That’s a new one.


– Strong combination block by Marcus Gilbert. Chip and get to the second level.


– Touchdown to AB is one the Steelers routinely worked on in training camp as part of their “seven shots” series. Get AB in motion, running off the ball, and put the defender in trail technique. Never missed in camp and worked in-game.

– Kick coverage: Shamarko Thomas-Robert Golden-Roosevelt Nix-Anthony Chickillo-Vince Williams-Chris Boswell-Sean Spence-Jarvis JonesRyan ShazierDarrius Heyward-BeyBrandon Boykin.

Lawrence Timmons is flowing from the backside but there shouldn’t be three Steelers to the outside shoulder of the Bengals’ OT. Ryan Shazier should probably have the inside gap.


Cam Heyward walking the center into the pocket so much that the center hits Andy Dalton’s arm, causing the pass to flutter.


Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t do a good job of looking off the single high safety on this deep ball to DHB. Safety is able to close and break it up.


– Punt coverage team: Boykin and Shark the gunners. Golden the upback. Nix and Spaeth the wings. On the line: Vince Williams, Arthur Moats, Greg Warren, Will Johnson, and Sean Spence.

– Shark can’t overrun Adam Jones, the punt returner. Takes him out of the play. Crash hard inside and keep yourself involved in the play.


– Defense in nickel against 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE). Easy way to get gashed against the run. Jeremy Hill runs for 15.


– Hat tip to reader Pittsburgh Sports, one of the loyal readers here. We were talking about dart run schemes last week and he pointed out that he thought the Steelers had run it before. Here it is. Marcus Gilbert pulling across and doing a nice job sealing the LB.


– Love the chase and rally to the ball from the Steelers here as a collective unit. Four guys to the ball. Hats eliminate YAC.


– Heyward trying to, uh, encourage the ref to move the spot of the punt into the Bengals’ territory. It didn’t work, unfortunately.


– PR unit. Heyward-Bey, Thomas, Boykin, and Ross Cockrell mixing and matching at gunners or up near the line. On the lie: Johnson, Nix, Spence, Williams, Dupree, and Todman.

– Another mental issue for Thomas on punt coverage. Eases up on his punt coverage, assumes Brandon Tate will call for fair catch. He doesn’t and gets a decent return out of it. Shark has done some good things as a gunner, staying clean and working through some double-vices, but there’s a fair share of negative, too.

– Sometimes, the Steelers have been so worried about max protecting they haven’t given their QB much to work with. No intermediate option for Roethlisberger. Where is he supposed to go with the ball against this two high look?


Alejandro Villanueva really struggled in the first half. He missed the same stunt a whopping four times in the first half. Defensive ending standing up over guard and crashing while the end loops inside. These are all different plays, I swear. Some of these I grabbed from my sack breakdown because they were all the same.





– Nice job by Cody Wallace to get out in space and cut the linebacker, giving space for DeAngelo Williams.


– Villy struggling again Recognizes the stunt this time but gets clubbed by Wallace Gilberry and doubles over.


Second Half

– Poor stalk block by Martavis Bryant on the corner. Potentially cost Williams a good chunk of yardage.


– Kudos to Steve McLendon for his sack but to be fair, the Bengals matched him up against a tight end, Tyler Eifert. A guy you better beat.

– Jeremy Hill had a pretty dirty hit on McLendon on the ensuing 3rd and 34. Dupree stuck up for him. Nice to see the rookie do that for a teammate.

Heath Miller with this crazy catch despite four defenders around him. Tough SOB.


– Haley working off his bubble screen. Fake it and throw down the seam to Miller.


– Would prefer Antwon Blake to always keep his eyes on the receiver whenever his back is to the quarterback. Let him play through the receivers hands than look back. Takes his eyes off Green, allows separation – getting out of phase – and can’t make a play on the ball.


– Taking on a double-team isn’t fun for a rookie like L.T. Walton but he has to collapse it better than that. Don’t let yourself get washed out.

Cam Thomas left unblocked. Can’t make the tackle. Dang it, Cam.


– Terrific job by James Harrison to leverage the tight end and hod the POA on third and short. Set up Heyward’s field goal block.


– Just to show it again with the All-22 tape. DHB’s key block on the safety to spring D-Will on his 55 yard scamper.


– And then they use that DHB motion to work their playaction game. Motion DHB to a reduced split, usually signaling run (reduce split to help WR work to safety), but Roethlisberger fakes the handoff and looks deep. Well covered by a nice design.


– Maybe Lawrence Timmons springing up over center at the last second influenced the bad snap.


Keith Butler was furious with Robert Golden’s block-in-the-back after Mike Mitchell’s INT. I think at Golden personally, not the ref’s decision to throw the flag.

– Tough play for Ross Cockrell on the clinching A.J. Green TD. Green sells vertical off the line before breaking on the slant.

– Miss stunt pickup by Cody Wallace, forcing a rushed throw and another Roethlisberger INT.


– Another reason why Archer took a knee on the final kick return. Look at all the unblocked Bengals…


– Big Ben’s fake spike was still the stupidest decision of the day.

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