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.