Film Room: Inside The Defense’s Struggles In Long Yardage Situations

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been less than great through the first two games of the season. They have allowed at least 28 points in their first two contests while ranking in the bottom third in the league against the pass and the run. Now, there is no doubt that there is a fair amount of blame to go around, sloppy execution by the players, communication issues and the sluggish offense has contributed to the defense’s poor play as well.

Though, if there is one situation in which the defense has no one but themselves to blame it is their failure to get off the field in long yardage situations, which was very evident in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.

1st and 19

2nd and 14

3rd and 10

1st and 15

2nd and 12

3rd and 10

2nd and 20 (DPI)

3rd and 16

Those are eight long yardage situations that the Steelers defense forced the Seahawks offense into last Sunday and the Seahawks managed to convert all eight of those situations into first downs. Those opportunities should have the Steelers licking their lips as they are perfect opportunities to get off the field and give their own offense a chance to make something happen but that is not what has transpired thus far.

Here is what played out on some of those long yardage situations.

1ST & 19 AT SEA 12(09:29) – (Shotgun) C.Carson right end pushed ob at SEA 33 for 21 yards (S.Davis)

Notice the gap between T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt as there is a substantial amount of space between the two defenders. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks must have noticed this because the same gap is begging to be ran through on the play prior, which is shown below.

The Seahawks call for another run to Watt’s side assuming that he is going to vertically push upfield again and they are correct. This time they bring two pulling offensive lineman just in case and Chris Carson is able to gain 21 yards untouched.

2ND & 14 AT SEA 29(07:54) – (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to T.Lockett pushed ob at PIT 49 for 22 yards (S.Davis).

The Steelers get the Seahawks into a long yardage situation again a few plays later and once again give up 20-plus yards. While the first play was the result of a great play call, this is one is just poor execution on Terrell Edmunds’ part. Edmunds has Tyler Lockett dead in his tracks and can limit this to a short gain but he whiffs on the tackle. Thankfully, the Seahawks do not add any points on this drive thanks to Stephon Tuitt’s back to back sacks.

3RD & 10 AT SEA 36(13:01) – (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short right to M.Turner to PIT 49 for 15 yards (J.Haden).

It would not be a Keith Butler led defense if there was not any confusion involved. It seems that Mike Hilton is not sure if he has the inside or outside receiver here, as he pivots with the receiver running up the seam before breaking back outside. By that time, it is already too late as Wilson hits Malik Turner for a fresh set of downs.

1ST & 15 AT SEA 8(01:55) – (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to M.Turner pushed ob at SEA 38 for 30 yards (S.Davis).

There is confusion and then there is running around like a headless chicken, which is what Mark Barron looks like he is doing on the play above. Barron seems to not be sure who he is responsible for as he and Edmunds carry a receiver up the seam, leaving Turner wide open. Turner realizes this and simply stops in front of the pocket and takes it upfield. Barron was brought over to the Steelers because of his ability to play in space but Sunday’s game was a very rough showing.

2ND & 12 AT PIT 42(11:53) – (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short left to DK.Metcalf to PIT 25 for 17 yards (S.Nelson).

Wilson picked apart the Steelers’ nickel blitz on Sunday, constantly checking down to his hot read and that is exactly how he managed to turn this 2nd and long into new life. According to Alex Kozora, Wilson went 6/7 for 72 yards and a touchdown when the Steelers sent Hilton on a nickel blitz.

On the play above, Hilton shows his hand too early and Wilson hits DK Metcalf for an easy 17-yard completion. The man responsible for Metcalf is Sean Davis and he is about 20-yards away. Perhaps Hilton could have hid his hand for a tad longer but chalk this up as Butler not putting his players in the best possible position to succeed. Wilson had a field day dealing with the nickel blitz and an adjustment should have been made at some point.

While the Steelers offense has also played a hand in the defense’s brutal start, Butler’s defense has no one else to blame when it comes to long yardage situations. These situations should be a walk in the park and they have been, just not for Butler’s defense. Instead they have been a walk in the park for opposing offenses.

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