It seemed like a dire situation heading into Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in the AFC Wild Card game without the services of running back DeAngelo Williams — who filled in admirably for Le’Veon Bell for much of the year after the third-year back out of Michigan State torn his MCL against the Bengals at Heinz Field.
Fortunately for the Steelers, a duo of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman stepped up in a big way for the offense, replacing the production of Williams while helping the Steelers win the game and move on to face the Denver Broncos, Sunday, in the AFC Divisional round at Sports Authority Field in Mile High.
While Toussaint will get a lot of the publicity for his 118 yards of total offense on 21 touches, the work that Todman did on the ground really opened things up for the Steelers offense.
Todman, who had just four rushes for 22 yards all season coming into Saturday’s game against Cincinnati, ripped off big gain after big gain against the Bengals on his way to a game-high 65 rushing yards on just 11 carries.
Through a series of GIFs, we’ll break down a few of Todman’s big runs against the Bengals.
At the snap the running play for Todman is designed to follow David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert over the right side.
DeCastro and Cody Wallace are engaged in a double team against Geno Atkins, which doesn’t work out as well as the Steelers hoped. DeCastro is knocked slightly off balance and pushed into the hole where Todman is designed to go.
Matt Spaeth also doesn’t get enough movement against Carlos Dunlap to give Todman a big enough crease. While Todman might have been able to slip through that gap, he likely gets taken down by Rey Maualuga, who is lurking just above DeCastro, Wallace and Ramon Foster.
Todman sees this and pulls off an impressive jump-cut to get him going back to the left where there is open room to run.
Heath Miller does a great job of locking up with Michael Johnson, slightly turning him inside the play to give Todman that extra split second to get to the edge.
From there, Todman has one man to beat — Adam Jones — before picking up the first down. Jones completely whiffs on the play as Todman makes a quick inside-out move, giving him the corner.
After beating Jones, Todman can’t beat Reggie Nelson down the sideline and gets pushed out of bounds after a gain of 14 yards.
This is the play where Mike Munchak and Nelson get into it on the sideline, wiping out most of Todman’s gain, but it’s still an impressive run by a back who was barely used this season.
He showed patience, a quick burst and was very decisive once he was in the open field.
This is the very next play following the run of 14 yards.
While the penalty to Munchak sets the Steelers back, they go right back to Todman, this time getting him on the edge quickly with a toss out of the shotgun.
At the snap, Miller down-blocks against Johnson, giving Gilbert, DeCastro and the rest of the line the chance to reach-and-run on the zone toss.
Gilbert does a nice job of getting out in front of Todman to take out Dre’ Kirkpatrick, while Darrius Heyward-Bey does his best to block Vontaze Burfict for long enough.
As all of this is happening in front of Todman, he takes the pitch and immediately turns on the jets to make sure he gets to the edge and turns it up into the lane created by Gilbert, DHB and Miller.
In the box score it goes down as just an 8-yard run, but the first two carries of the game for Todman against Cincinnati showed the Steelers coaching staff that he was up to the challenge.
Similar to his 14-yard carry in the first quarter, Todman utilizes the jump-cut and his vision to the backside of the play to pick up a big gain on second down.
At the snap everything looks very similar to his first run, but Miller runs along the line of scrimmage to kick out block Johnson again in what appears to be a “wham” block on the backside.
However, Todman is patient and sees as he approaches the line that there simply isn’t anywhere to run. From there, Todman follows Miller’s block and gets to the edge on the cutback.
This time though, Jones is able to make the tackle on Todman as Antonio Brown lets his block go too early to try and get to the next level to block.
Once again, the decisiveness and explosion in his cuts by Todman allowed him to run to daylight on a play that looked to be stuffed at the line.
On what appears to be a zone-stretch run, Todman does a great job of stretching out the run as far as possible to get the defense moving laterally.
Take a look at the job Alejandro Villanueva and Foster do on this play. Villanueva gets out to Wallace Gilberryquickly and rides him to the sideline, while Foster gets to the next level and seals off the backside pursuit, opening a huge lane that Todman bursts through.
Once Todman sees the running lane open up, he quickly plants his left foot into the ground and takes off. From there he’s able to pick up a huge chunk of yards to help flip the field position ever so slightly.
Although Todman does fumble at the end of the run (it happens well out of bounds), the run pretty much sums up everything Todman was able to do against Cincinnati.
The explosiveness, one-cut burst, patience and vision were on full display all night against the Bengals.
Pretty impressive for a guy who had just four carries during the regular season.