We continue our film session on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie draft class with the NFL debut of seventh-round wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, who was recently promoted from the practice squad but saw his game action on Sunday against the Ravens. It was a game of firsts, and mostly good.
The young man got a decent amount of playing time—even seeing a couple snaps from packages that included only two wide receivers—and though he only had two targets in the game, he found ways to contribute as a blocker.
Ayers checked in for the first time early, on the third play of the game. The first thing he did? Target safety Eric Weddle. Lined up on the left on the outside, he saw Weddle charge in and drove a shoulder to him to seal him inside on a run that was bouncing out to the perimeter.
The Steelers kept the same personnel on the field on the next snap, but moved them around—even lining up the fullback as a wide receiver, for the first time all season (all of his career in fact, I believe)—this time with Ayers on the right. On third and one, he worked through the C Gap to put a block on the cornerback. After they converted the first down, he gave an enthusiastic wave of his hand in signaling of that fact. His enthusiasm is a part of his game.
He didn’t see much time again until late in the game, but he had some impactful plays in the fourth quarter. And as you might guess, one of those was another block—one that got a pretty high profile, since it was obvious, and occurred in a key situation.
You might be able to guess that that block in question came on Le’Veon Bell’s rushing touchdown at the top of the fourth quarter, which put the Steelers down by one possession and ignited the comeback. Ayers was on the outside to the left when Bell had to bounce the run in that direction. When Ayers saw that, he immediately turned his focus to the cornerback and did a great job of shielding him out of the play.
Of course, it was just two plays earlier that Ayers helped put the Steelers in the situation to score there. He ran a go route against rookie cornerback Tavon Young and won, putting a great move on him to get outside. He didn’t make the catch, but he drew a long pass interference penalty.
His first reception had to wait until the final, game-winning drive. It was nothing flashy for fancy, but he did show good awareness and tenacity to get nine yards and get out of bounds against Young, providing him with a stiff-arm.
It’s not every day that you do a film session on a wide receiver and feature mostly blocks, but that was Ayers’ debut. I’m hoping he gets a nice, long burn in the season finale in preparation for the postseason.