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Film Room: Steelers Defense Gets Gashed Over The Middle

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense, to their credit, have done a nice job containing Travis Kelce over the years. Before Sunday, in five games against Pittsburgh, Kelce picked up only 50+ yards twice and had only one touchdown. For his talent, more than respectable outcomes.

Of course, then there was Sunday.

Kelce finally broke through yesterday afternoon to the tune of seven receptions for 109 yards and two scores. I want to focus on both of those touchdowns today and how similar they were. Thankfully, we get a couple looks from the eye in the sky, which as you should know, doesn’t lie.

Let’s dive in, starting with Kelce’s first touchdown from 19 yards out.

The first place I want to start is literally the beginning: the release. I know it’s zone coverage but there’s no resistance from the Steelers secondary. Kelce has a free release off the line. Vince Williams offers a very soft reroute. He’s trying to funnel him, I get that, but you gotta be more physical than that on one of the league’s top tight ends in the red zone.

Coverage is straight Cover 2. MIKE linebacker Jon Bostic flips his hips to the strength of the formation and is responsible for anything down the seam.

Chiefs run four verts, widening the safety and putting him in conflict. He can’t attack the seam because he’s responsible for #1 on the outside.

Bostic simply doesn’t get off his landmark quickly enough and is unable to make a play on the ball. Really nice ball placement from Patrick Mahomes, throwing it behind Kelce as not to lead him into the linebacker. And it’s six.

Here’s a look at the whole thing from the aerial view.

And the second.

Similar story. Kelce with a free release, doesn’t have to change his stem at all with the Steelers in zone coverage. This time, looks like the Steelers are in Cover 4, “quarters” coverage based on how the corners are bailing at the snap and carrying #1 vertically.

But the problem remains the same. The middle of the field is open. Linebacker isn’t opening up (I’m not positive if he’s supposed to here). The safeties don’t get off their mark in time, especially backside, Sean Davis, who should reasonably expect #3 to bend his route back.

Another dart by Mahomes and it goes for six.

Kelce is one guy you gotta hone in on around the red zone. The Steelers simply made it too easy, gaps in zone coverage that the stronged-arm Mahomes to zip into.

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