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Breaking Down The Doomed 3rd Down Play With Two Minutes Left Against The Bengals

One of the toughest plays to watch this past Sunday in the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday, outside of the two interceptions thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was the 3rd down and 8 play with two minutes left in the game. If the Steelers convert on this play they are more than likely in field goal range for kicker Shaun Suisham with an opportunity to run three more plays to get him even closer and take more time off the clock in the process.

The play in question, which you can see in the two animated gifs below, never had a chance to be successful thanks to the depth and types of routes run against the defense.

Steelers Bengals 3rd down

In the first animation you see the pre snap action where the Bengals have the line of scrimmage crowded and both safeties up in the box as if they are playing cover-0. The disguise is good because at this point the Steelers offense is unsure of how many people are coming. With 7 seconds left on the play clock the safeties drop back into a cover-2 shell and the middle linebacker drops back into his normal depth.

At the snap it is straight press man coverage across and the routes play right into it. Look at the depth of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown at the top of their routes. Both are not only short of the chains, but short of the 34 yard-line as well, which is where they need to be to get within range of Suisham. Both are easily covered, as is Emmanuel Sanders, Isaac Redman in the flat and tight end David Paulson on the corner route.

Steelers Bengals 3rd down

The Bengals only essentially rushed three on the play, and with the receivers all covered and the middle of the field wide open Roethlisberger attempts to take off to try and get the first down himself, which he of course was unsuccessful at doing.

Even if the Bengals had stayed in cover-0 and sent both of the safeties this play would have been doomed. The Steelers did not have a route in this play that attacked the middle of the field and thus played right into the defense called by the Bengals.

Why in the world are only two of your eligible receivers running routes behind the chains here?

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