Largely, the Pittsburgh Steelers – and their fans – would like to have their memories erased of Week One. An ugly loss to the New England Patriots where the Steelers’ defense seemed unable to do anything correctly, even down to the simple fundamental rule of covering their best receiver.
But there is one carryover. The Steelers brought back their dime package for four plays Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, marking the first time it’s been seen since the season opener.
“It was specific to Cincinnati. Not that we’re opposed to using it moving forward if the opportunities present themselves in a similar manner,” Mike Tomlin told reporters in his usual Tuesday press conference.
It was used four times with Robert Golden replacing Lawrence Timmons to become the sixth defensive back. All four instances came on 3rd and 9+. It was a little surprising to see Timmons taken off the field, missing his first action of 2015, and becoming the last defensive player in the NFL to miss at least one of his team’s snaps. The Steelers chose to keep Ryan Shazier on the field, though Tomlin wasn’t asked or commented on what went into that decision.
The wrinkle had just moderate success. The Bengals converted two of their four third downs with pickups of 18 and 24 yards. The Steelers were relatively passive, rushing just four with no blitz on every occasion.
Though the decision was likely made for several reasons, the team has employed dime against teams with top tight ends: Rob Gronkowski in Week One and Tyler Eifert Sunday, though Eifert would leave the game early. The best tight end the Steelers will face the rest of the regular season is Gary Barnidge in Week 17, though the team decided against using any dime in the first matchup.
Tomlin spoke to the threat Owen Daniels presents this week for the Denver Broncos, especially given his and head coach Gary Kubiak’s familiarity with the Steelers. The Broncos also acquired Vernon Davis before the trade deadline, though he’s had a minimal impact. He had a crucial 4th down drop late in their loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday.