While there was some good play from Pittsburgh Steelers starting defense Saturday night in their preseason opener against the New York Giants, there was also some bad.
On the Giants second offensive possession of the game, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Victor Cruz right down the middle of seam for a 57 yard touchdown on third and four. While cornerback William Gay was lined up on Cruz in the slot as the nickel cornerback, I don\’t believe you can pin all the blame on him.
As you can see in the two animated gifs below, the Steelers appear to be playing man all the way across on the line with two deep safeties. Basically this is just a cover-2 man under defense. Considering the down and distance, this defensive call was not surprising.
After the snap, Gay has inside trail coverage on Cruz just as he is supposed to as he should have help over the top from safety Troy Polamalu.
You will notice that outside cornerback Ike Taylor appears to slip or stumble as he gets into his turn and trail. I think Polamalu probably thought Manning was going to wide receiver Rueben Randle on the outside being as he had pretty decent separation off the line. By breaking that way, he left Gay on his own in the middle of the field with Cruz.
Gay is not totally off the hook, however, as he was never able to get his head around. Unless we get a clear all-22 look at the play, it is hard to see what fellow safety Ryan Clark was reading on the other side as I don\’t believe that Manning ever looked to his right.
I would call this a collective breakdown for the entire secondary and certainly one they will be going over when they break down the tape.