Pittsburgh Steelers safety Kameron Kelly had a monumental challenge in front of him this weekend. He was slated to not only make his first NFL start against the reigning Super Bowl champions in their house but he was tasked with going up against perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady.
Here is the thing about Brady – if you give him a weakness, he will exploit it over and over again. That’s exactly what he did to Anthony Smith 12 years ago and that’s exactly what he did last night against Kelly and the Steelers’ defense. Now, this is not to say that Kelly’s performance mirrored Smith’s start against the Patriots in 2007 but Brady sure made it obvious to everyone watching that Kelly was playing his first real NFL snaps.
While Kelly is not technically a rookie by the NFL’s definition, he may as well be classified as one considering his lack of NFL experience. The safety’s first rookie mistake came late in the first quarter. Brady deliver a strike to Jakobi Meyers near midfield and Kelly was in perfect position to wrap him up and negate any potential yards gained after the catch. Instead of just playing fundamentally sound football, Kelly went for the kill shot and Meyers was able to bounce off him and gain an additional five yards.
Kelly’s night went from bad to ugly midway through the third quarter. Desperately needing a stop, both Kelly and Terrell Edmunds allowed Patriots’ receiver Phillip Dorsett to slip by them in what looks like is maybe quarters coverage against a pin concept for a 58-yard touchdown. Perhaps one of the easiest touchdowns Dorsett will ever score, the communication failure and lack of execution by the Steelers’ safeties on the play above was just one of many lowlights on the night.
Brady was not done yet as he took another deep shot on the Patriots’ following drive, this time it was a shot to Josh Gordon. Different receiver but a similar result as Gordon came down with a 44-yard grab, his longest of the night. There are more than a few events that stand out on this play. The most obvious is that Gordon is being covered by linebacker Vince Williams, which is less than ideal. To be fair though, Williams has help over the top from Kelly, well at least he was supposed to but Kelly bites on Gordon’s outside move and gets turned inside out.
Williams on Gordon is inexcusable anyway you paint it but Kelly really should have had the Patriots’ receiver covered deep. His lone responsibility on the play is to not get beat deep and negate the middle of the field – he did neither.
The Steelers missed Sean Davis last night perhaps more than anyone ever expected they would. While Davis failed to create many turnovers last season, he almost always ensured that he at least met the most basic requirement of his position which is making sure nothing got by him in the secondary.
Kelly failed to protect the last third of the field last night but for a player who spent his spring playing in the AAF, the jump from minor league ball to the big leagues is a tough position to be in, especially when tasked with facing one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
It was a learning experience but unfortunately for the Steelers, they do not have time for many more learning experiences. Expectations for the team were higher than ever coming into this season and with Russell Wilson coming into town next weekend, the team must hope that either Davis is ready to return from his ankle injury or Kelly shakes off Sunday’s disaster as quickly as possible.