A key defensive play in the Pittsburgh Steelers win Sunday night over the Cincinnati Bengals was the pass deflection by cornerback Keenan Lewis on the deep ball intended for wide receiver A.J. Green in the third quarter.
Below are two cuts from the coaches tape of the play in animated gif form that show it from two different angles.
While many will try to write this off as a great call by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, it was really just a simple cover-3 defense with base personnel that worked great because everybody did their job, especially Lewis.
In cover-3 the field is divided into thirds and in this instance you see strong safety Will Allen is down low as he has responsibility for the outside run contain and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis should he go out into the flat. He has the lower level outside third.
Lewis has one third of the field to cover the deepest route on his side, which is initially tight end Jermaine Gresham. Free safety Ryan Clark has the middle third of the field to cover and cornerback Ike Taylor has the other third of the field. The responsibility of all three is to not let the deep receiver in their third to get over the top of them.
Watch Lewis at the snap cover Gresham until he leaves his third, which at that time he becomes the responsibility of Clark. Gresham\’s job is to draw Clark out of his middle deep area of the field so that he can\’t pick up Green in his third, who is just running a simple deep post route, a great cover-3 buster by the way. Clark does exactly what he is supposed to do in this coverage.
The key decision made by Lewis on this play now that he has nobody to cover on his third is to maintain depth responsibility in his third with the deepest receiver left on the field, which in this case is Green. When he sees the ball in the air he can attack it, and he does. Watch him look over at where Green is in his route and then look back for the ball.
Taylor has to continue over the top coverage on Green into the middle third once he identifies the deep post and that Clark has responsibility for the deepest man in his middle third, which is Gresham.
The Bengals had the right play called here against the right defense and it very well could have resulted in a touchdown if not for Lewis staying true to his responsibilities. Lewis even said after the game that he had spotted that play on tape.
“Spotted it right away,” Lewis said. “Just went back to help.”
Help he did.