It is so hard to boil the Pittsburgh Steelers loss last Thursday night to the Tennessee Titans down to just one play as you could pick about 6 on each side of the ball and make a solid case for it being the play.
That being said, one play that could have made a huge difference was the final running play on the Steelers final drive where running back Baron Batch was stopped for a one yard loss. You can see the All-22 view of the play in the animated gif below.
To set it up, it was 2nd down and 6 from the Titans 35 yard-line with 1:08 left in the game. The Steelers had 11 personnel on the field in a single back, trips bunch right formation that featured Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in the bunch.
At the snap, Ramon Foster chips right before releasing to help to his left. Although Mike Adams does allow some gap penetration on the play, he is able to anchor and turn Derrick Morgan inside, thus providing a lane off his right hip as Miller has the strong-side linebacker, Akeem Ayers, engaged. Instead of running it off the hip of Adams, Batch cuts back inside and right into the teeth of the defense.
Although you can\’t hear it in a gif, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger checks out of the original play after he identifies the Titans have only 3 down linemen with single gap responsibility. Batch should have read Morgan lined up in the B gap pre snap, which meant he had 1 gap responsibility, with Ayers having essentially 2 gap responsibility and outside contain.
Both Sanders and Brown do their part by clearing out the right side and this play could have also been bounced outside of Miller just as easily. Essentially the only block that Batch needs to read is the one of Miller. Even if he slams it in the skinny lane just outside of the hip of Adams and inside Miller, there was likely 2 or 3 yards to be had. At the very least the play would not have gone for negative yardage like it did and a 3 yard gain would have been a 4 yard swing based on the result.
Would it have changed what happened on third down or that play call? Impossible to say, but it would have at least perhaps turned a 54 yard field goal attempt by kicker Shaun Suisham into a 51 yard attempt instead.
No, I am not pinning this game on one play or Batch, but it was an important play in the game nonetheless. By the way, watch Roethlisberger point at the end of the play.