New to Steelers Depot, we will be highlighting several possible draft prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers may have interest in for the 2022 NFL Draft and their performance during the college football season.
One of the most anticipated games of the slate last weekend pitted #1 Alabama against #12 Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa. The 63-48 barnburner last season on Oxford made the game garner headlines to see if the Crimson Tide defense could do a better job bottling up the Ole Miss offense this time around, and more specifically, QB Matt Corral. Corral had been off to a fast start for the Rebels heading into the matchup, leading his team to a 3-0 record while being efficient through the air as well as on the ground. Probably the most important improvement to Corral’s game however was his security of the football as he hadn’t turned the ball over yet this season.
That would be challenged against the vaunted Alabama defense playing at home which would be Corral’s toughest test to date. The Tide defense obviously re-watched the tape last season to see Corral tear them apart down the field and countered by bringing pressure all afternoon in attempt to rattle him and get him to force throws he shouldn’t throw. Corral managed to avoid throwing an interception during the contest, but he did feel the heat from the Tide defense, getting sacked several times and took some big shots on his fakes and after the throw. Here is his lone turnover of the game where the defender beats the block and attacks the ball as Corral attempts to throw, forcing the fumble that the defense recovers.
You could say that Corral needs to have better pocket awareness and must escape to extend the play. Believe me, Corral did this throughout the contest. Watch this first down pass attempt where Corral has pressure coming right up in his face, but evades the defender, sets his feet, and delivers a bomb down the field to his receiver in single coverage into the breadbasket. The defender plays the pass well and the pass is incomplete, but I can argue that the receiver should bring this ball in on a brilliant pass attempt by Corral who throws this ball 55 yards in the air with a defender in his face.
Corral also may get grief since the offense ran mostly RPO concepts with quick throws around the LOS to get his receivers the chance to run after the catch. While Corral didn’t attempt a ton of passes down the field, he hardly had the chance to stretch the field throughout the contest given how much the Crimson Tide defense was in his face and the lack of separation created by his receiving core, winning the LOS and getting pressure nearly every play. Still, the RPO game was effective thanks to his anticipation as a passer and threat as a runner. Watch this throw on the slant pattern across the middle where Corral fakes the give and fires the ball in the window between two defenders for the first down.
When pressure got to him in the pocket, Corral was able to scramble out and pick up yards with his legs. He isn’t a dynamic runner but has suitable mobility and speed to be a threat on designed runs as well as on the scramble drill. Watch this example where a defender again comes full speed at Corral after the RPO fake but manages to sidestep the pressure whilst keeping his eyes down field. After seeing nothing down the field, Corral tucks and escapes the pocket, picking up nice yardage with his legs on the broken protection.
We see a similar example on Corral’s first TD of the game where he takes the snap on the apparent QB designed run. He reads his blocks and breaks for the sideline, beating the angle taken by the defender to edge him out into the end zone for the rushing score.
Corral shows off his mobility outside of the pocket on his second TD of the game, this time on a rollout pass to the right. He fakes the handoff to the back and rolls to his right, locating his receiver separating from the defender and coverage and places the ball on-target while on the run for the score.
Prior to this play, Corral demonstrates his ability to evade pressure in the pocket to give his receivers a chance to get open down the field. Watch this play as Corral fakes the give and steps up in the pocket to avoid #31 Will Anderson coming off the edge around the LG while also steeping out of the tackle attempt by the DT, keeping his eyes down field as a passer the entire time to locate his receiver breaking open and puts it on the money for the first down.
When Corral had time to throw in the pocket, he made some impressive throws. On this play on second-and-long, Corral takes the snap and stands tall in the pocket, locating his receiver on the left sideline in single coverage. He throws to the back shoulder of the receiver who comes back and manages to snag the ball with one arm along the sideline for the impressive catch to move the ball to a third-and-one situation. Clearly, the receiver makes a great play here on the throw, but a good job by Corral as well to place the ball in a spot where only his receiver can go get it.
Here is another good throw near the end of the game by Corral who has a clean pocket after the snap to put the ball on his man near the end zone. The receiver does a good job boxing out the defender in coverage, giving Corral a clear target to put the ball on. I personally thought the receiver reached the ball over the plane here on this play, but it was ruled short. Ole miss would go on to run the ball in for the score, but still a good throw by Corral to set up the score.
While Corral did a lot of good things with his arm completing passes as well as with his legs Saturday, probably the biggest takeaway I came away with from his performance was his ability to take care of the football. I heavily criticized Corral in summer scouting for his decision making, as he has a ton of talent as a passer, but would make too many turnover-worthy plays, having thrown 14 INTs last year with two separate games with over five picks in each.
Thus far on the season he hadn’t thrown a pick, and that streak lived on against Alabama as he made sound decisions to live another down. Watch this play where Ole Miss is in the red zone, but Corral is immediately met with pressure. Instead of forcing the ball into coverage, Corral throws the ball out of bounds, managing to avoid getting the intentional grounding penalty and live another play.
Overall, it wasn’t a crazy day for Corral on the stat sheet, going 21-for-29 (72.4%) for 213 yards and one TD along with three yards rushing (after sacks) and one score on the ground. However, Corral did a great job taking care of the football in a hostile environment, being efficient as a passer and didn’t play into the hands of the aggressive Alabama defense. Normally a loose cannon that likes to sling it all over the yard, Corral showed the needed growth from last season, taking what the defense gave him to give his team the best chance to succeed.
He also did a great job carrying out his fakes on the RPOs as both a runner and a passer on the afternoon, showing scouts he is a natural fit in what the league appears to be transitioning to. Should the Steelers look to find the heir to QB Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, Corral could be a player that would be a good fit in Matt Canada’s offense, having the enticing arm talent along with the mobility and athleticism to maneuver the pocket, execute the RPO system, and create with his legs if the play breaks down. It may have been a rather mediocre showing against Alabama, but this performance undoubtedly helped improved Corral’s draft stock for next spring.
What are your thoughts on Matt Corral’s performance against Alabama? Do you think he made the most of the situation presented to him? Do you think he could have done more to give his team a chance at victory? How do you see him potentially fitting as a potential draft target in Pittsburgh? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!