Following each game in the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.
Week – Regular Season Week 6
Opponent – Los Angeles Chargers
1. Swarm vs Solo – The defense took two different approaches to tackling in the game versus the Chargers. In the first half, the defense was swarming to the ball. It seemed every tackle that was made had multiple players in on the tackle shutting down the additional yards gained. In the second half, there was less swarming and more of solo effort happening leading to more missed tackles. Part of that would be the product of the defense they were playing trying to keep everything in front of them. Swarming is all about effort playing to the whistle. It was great to see that mentality early and must continue.
2. Bush’s Ball Skills – We’ve commented many time about the awareness of Devin Bush to find the ball and that continued tonight. Realizing that Philip Rivers had thrown a backward pass and getting the recovery touchdown started it. Then he had the interception on the tipped pass that was ironically in a linebacker covering wide receiver situation. He has shown a propensity to be around the ball early and often through six games and is off to a great start.
3. Conner’s Contact Balance – Conner’s physical play was really on point in this game. He ran hard and with good pad level and consistently broke tackles in the game often breaking multiple on one play. The Chargers had to believe the Steelers would play it close to the vest and the running game as a whole stepped up. I’m not sure how many broken tackles he had, the broadcast said eight at the half, but that type of running sets the tone.
4. Banner Day – Part of that running attack was the use of Zach Banner as the tight end in jumbo packages and for the most part he looked really good. He was especially effective in the one on one situation where he just needed to handle the guy across from him and was often able to open holes for the RB’s. He needs to be a little quicker out of his stance on the back side reach blocks but overall he performed well.
5. Snell Yeah! – This type of game was the perfect opportunity to get Benny Snell a good amount of touches. The Steelers had a big lead and were able to use the running game effectively to keep the Charges off the field. Snell is a grinder who seems to get stronger the more touches he gets. He found the gaps and was able to run effectively. His performance showed what he can do and the depth they have at the position.
6. No Hodge Podge – Devlin Hodges played like a savvy veteran in his first NFL start. I really like his situational awareness. He would make his reads downfield and always knew the location of his check down. He wasn’t phased by the pass rush throwing with guys in his face and knowing when to move from the pocket. He did a great job handling bad snaps (2 low, 1 high in the same drive) and made a smart move chasing down one and throwing it away. Quarterback looks to be another place of good depth.
7. All of a Sutton – Cameron Sutton is making it very difficult for the Steelers to keep him off the field. Over the past several weeks he has continually showed up on tape making big plays whether it is a big tackle on third down catches or breaking up big passes. Sunday night with the team playing a lot of nickel and dime defense he had three pass breakups including the late interception. Also, he made the big play on special teams making a leaping recovery of the onside kick.
8. Trey Play – This is one of those “it won’t show up in the box score” plays but it definitely deserves mentioning. Trey Edmunds was active for the first time this season and on the onside kick play he stepped up. Literally. With the kick in the air he stepped up in front of Sutton to blow up LB Drue Tranquill who had a full head of steam toward the ball. If he hadn’t made that block the result may have been different on that play. Making plays like that when you get your chance I’m sure will catch Danny Smith’s
9. Learn from your Opponent – I hope the Steelers offensive skill players took notice of the chip block by the Chargers receiver Mike Williams. Williams was lined up in the tight slot near Bud Dupree who was lined up wide to rush the passer. At the snap, Williams drilled Dupree from the side knocking him to the ground and then went into his route to make the reception. The Steelers RB’s will rush when getting into their routes and will miss on the chips. These blocks can be a big help to the offensive lineman and as you saw they can be very effective. I’m sure Dupree would attest.
10. Good Crief – A rocky start to his season with the Steelers that included many dropped passed and being listed on the inactive list it was a good night for Donte Moncrief. Yes he only had two targets. Yes he only had one reception. Let’s look at the positives. Only one of those targets was catchable and he caught it. It was a tough catch picking the ball off the ground. The wide receivers need to be more productive going forward. This could be not only a needed confidence boost for Moncrief but also for the staff to trust him again.