Jonathan Dwyer Given No-Win Situations On Two First Half Sacks Allowed

Upon first glance, it seemed as though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer had a poor game in pass protection. And in reality, it was not his best effort. In fact, his best effort on the night was wrongly called a penalty. Both times Ben Roethlisberger was sacked, Dwyer was in pass protection, which sounds pretty bad. But it is worth taking a closer look at these plays to see what really happened.

The first sack in question came on the Steelers’ second drive, on second and goal from the three-yard line. Roethlisberger was directly under center, and Dwyer was lined up five yards behind the line of scrimmage. The Steelerswere in an 11 personnel look with tight end David Paulson coming off the line and running a route.

The Kansas City Chiefs brought the pressure on this one, sending six rushers in on the blitz. The interior linemen held off the defensive line while both tackles were able to cut block the two outside linebackers on what was supposed to be a short pass to either Paulson or Emmanuel Sanders. Both were blanketed, however, preventing a quick throw.

Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson got a great break on the snap on his blitz, coming in clean between Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey. With a running head start and Dwyer in a static position five yards behind the play, it was an uneven race to the spot, which Dwyer lost.

The only realistic shot Dwyer had of getting to the spot before Johnson did was if he had the ability to walk right through Roethlisberger, but then if he had that ability you would have to figure that a blitzing linebacker would be just as permeable, rendering the point moot. Such as it was, Dwyer not only had to begin from a standstill, he had to maneuver around his signal caller to even get a hand on Johnson, who’d already reached the quarterback by the time his front foot was on the seven-yard line.

Of course, Dwyer scored a touchdown on the next play. It may still go as a sack, but it’s hard to fault him too much for not being able to complete his assignment on this play.

The second sack of Ben Roethlisberger came late in the first half, and contributed to affording the Chiefs the opportunity to score a game-tying touchdown with just seconds left in the second quarter. The Steelers were approaching midfield with second and five, trying to drain the last minute and a half on the clock while adding some more points before halftime.

Once again, the Steelers were in the three-receiver look with Paulson running a route off the line. This time, Roethlisberger was in the shotgun with Dwyer in his right hip pocket.

It was obvious early on that this play would not end well. The Chiefs rushed just three on the line, including Tamba Hali. However, they ran an overloaded safety blitz to the offensive ride side; Eric Berry was already hovering in the box, possibly shadowing Dwyer, but Tysyn Hartman came running up from 10 yards back before the snap, and both rushed between the hole left by David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert. DeCastro stuck on to his double-team block with Pouncey rather than picking up one of the blitzers, and Dwyer was left with his choice of which safety to block, knowing that at least one of them will be getting to the quarterback regardless of what he does.

Unfortunately for Dwyer, even when he did choose to block Berry, he did not do much more than side swipe him with his shoulder, and both safeties got to Roethlisberger at the same time anyway. So even though he likely could not have prevented a sack on the play, he still failed to execute his assignment, even considering the fact that he had to make a decision on which blitzer to pick up.

On the positive side, we know that Dwyer is capable of better, because he showed that he can do the job in pass protection just last season. In 56 snaps in pass protection, he allowed just a single hurry all season. The only player with 40 or more snaps in protection who did a better job was Isaac Redman, who gave up one hurry in 64 snaps.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • 2443scott

    on first one its all on dwyer he just blew it on second that side was over loaded and he had no chance to stop it but he never even picked up one of the guys so maybe ben could of shook one them off but not both….but gilbert should of also noticed he wasnt pressured hardly and should of at lease tossed a shoulder to slow the guy down a little …..but this is my prob with dwyer some times he looks so good but other times he is like his brain dont see things fast enough and he gets blown out of the play…. but then next play you can see where he is a totaly diff player …if hes cut or traded this is going to be reason why ..

  • steeltown

    In the end, EVERYONE has to recognize blitz packages better, including Ben and the OL… Dwyer is capable, but no one can pick up 2 or 3 free blitzers

  • george

    While I’ll agree both were no win situations.

    On the 2nd one Dwyer was indecisive and end up slowing done either rusher.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I did mention that he didn’t do his job even on that play. My point was just that he was put in a position where he couldn’t prevent a sack, even if on the stats sheet it’s a notch against him. Outside of these two plays, his stats sheet was clean.

  • Matthew Marczi

    May I ask how Dwyer was supposed to get there on the first play? He would have had to move out of his position in order to even have a chance of making the play, and then he runs the risk of being in Roethlisberger’s way and knocking him down, resulting in a sack anyway. The blitz showed itself too late to be picked up and with Roethlisberger’s quick outs covered, he had no choice but to eat it. You have to just credit the defense on a great blitz and thank Derrick Johnson for not blowing Ben up when he could have.

  • stairman

    If dwyer picked up the one to his left, Ben would not have been locked down. and at least dwyer would have doe his job. on the first sack, couldn’t anyone of identified it? Our D hardly ever gets a sack that easily.

  • Matthew Marczi

    On the first sack, the blitz was well-disguised and Derrick Johnson got an excellent break on the snap. It happened too quickly to be picked up, I think. On the second sack, the problem was that Roethlisberger wasn’t even looking to his right. He got hammered by the unblocked safety before he even realized he was coming. Yes, he’s elusive for a big dude, but he can’t elude what he doesn’t see.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    The only way to have avoided the 1st sack would have been for Ben to recognize it and switch Dwyer to the other side of the formation. That was about the only option. Once it gets missed, it is doubtful that ANY of our RBs could have gotten there in time.

  • bgsteelfan

    Honestly, I have been inclined to give the RBs somewhat of a pass on most sack/rushes since the line has been so bad so far.

  • Don

    I agree. Ben has to recognize the blitzes better.

  • Intropy

    Dwyer could have gone around Roethlisberger’s left instead of right and had a shot at that blitzer, but there was no opportunity to read that and make that choice. So flip of the coin.