Steelers Versus Giants: Breaking Down The Victor Cruz Touchdown

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.

Steelers Giants animated gif Victor Cruz touchdown

Steelers Giants preseason animated gif Victor Cruz touchdown 2

  • John A Stewart

    They brought Gay back because they said he knew the system.Gay will cost my Steelers at least two games guarantee.

  • sgtrobo

    this is who William Gay is and always has been. I am baffled as to how people continued to defend him. No, he wasn’t as bad in 2011 as he was in 2010, but that’s because he was the worst starting CB in the NFL in 2010

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I understand Gay is supposed to have safety help over the top on that play. I also understand that he is matched up on the Giants (arguably) #1 WR which is not how we’d like to have him positioned. So this is not a typical scenario.

    What is typical though, is the fact that Gay does not have the size/strength to jam the WR at the line. Gay does not have the speed to stay with the WR down the field. Gay does not have the awareness to get his head around and locate the ball. And even if he did, Gay does not have the length and/or ball skills to go up and bat it down.

    I know others may disagree, and that is their right, but I have yet to see Willie Gay display the physical skills necessary to cover professional NFL WR’s. This play IMO is just further evidence.

  • Kirby Hogenmiller

    WILLIE GAY IS BACK WITH THE VENGENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS RIOT!!!!!!!

  • disqus_5IWNhVT8DI

    Gay is horrible. Qbs pick on him all the time wherever Gay is they throw the ball. He is going to cost us some games.

  • cencalsteeler

    Gillbride was salivating at the match up between Cruz and Gay, as was Manning. I wasn’t surprised the Giants capitalized on the mismatch. But, if Gay would have checked the receiver on the line, it could have disrupted the timing and given time for safety help.
    I hope Tomlin takes the same approach with the secondary as he is with the o line. Sprinkle Golden and Thomas in nickel and cornerback situations. You might find a nice combination back there.

  • John Hinton

    I agree with each comment below. He is still who we thought he was when he was last with the Steelers – a horrible CB! I was upset when I heard we signed him this off season and this play demonstrates exactly why we did not need him back in the Black and Gold. Dave – I hear you with respect to help from Troy; however, Manning’s pass was not over the top, it was inside where Gay should have been in position to prevent the completion. I hope and pray that our young group of corners (i.e. Van Dyke, Hawthorne and even Brown) QUICKLY get back on the field and show promise like our young ILBs did last night. I just don’t understand why the FO brought Gay back! Worst move of the off season – hands down!

  • Ceelamar

    Gay missed the jam at the line but Troy has to not let anybody get behind him. Troy needs to stay home and stop cheating to help others. They get burned like this all the time because Troy is out of position.

  • Ahmad

    I’m sorry but if I’m Troy on that play, I;m staying to help Gay with Cruz. Even though Taylor did stumble, I trust him on his own more than I do with Gay matched up against the #1 WR in the slot.

  • NimbusHex

    The good news is Cortez Allen should be back soon. Really hope Josh Victorian and Curtis Brown are able to reduce Gay’s playing time to almost nothing.

  • charles

    Rogers victimized Gay this same way in SB. Further it looks like Mr. Gay has lost a step or two of speed. But, this is why they play. Colbert has not made a mistake until we find him on the final 53. Thanks for the film.

  • TuffTruth

    That’s ridiculous. Ike did slip and Polamalu was not in position to help Gay, but slot technique is not the same as the corners… if so, then the defense is flawed before the play begins as seen here this would happen every time. Just flood the zone with 2 deep receivers… The deep play is what this defense is supposed to stop. On the other side is the same defense and the slot defender wasn’t 3 yards behind his receiver. Gay was beaten because he was late, Cruz having taken at least two steps, within a yard of Gay before he even moved… look at your gif he was beaten at that point and Manning knew it. He didn’t get out of his stance before Cruz was 1 yard away from him in full stride. By the time he turned his hips, Cruz was at full speed and already past him. Note the other side, how the LB over there had turned his hips before the receiver got within 3 yards of him… had Gay played like this, then Manning may have gotten sacked with the pressure on him or went to Ike’s receiver in which case, it would have been his slip that cost us whatever that play garnered. If this play is designed as you suggests with 4 DBs all playing trail technique, they better scrap it, because its 1 fast slot receiver away from a TD every time. Clark is irrelevant. Cover 2 has both safties with 1/2 deep responsibility, if Clark comes over, he’s not doing his job regardless of where Manning looks and is being set up to get looked away for a deep shot to the other side as what would be the case for rookie safeties. Gay screwed u p plain and simple… no excuses.

  • Richard Cetrone

    Completely agree John. I’m so tired of the Steelers resigning less talented players just because they are familiar with the system. This is the same thing that happened with Bryant McFadden. We didn’t want him, the Cardinals sign him for one season then don’t want him and we sign him back again. And he lasted one season. I’m losing a little faith in Colbert at this point. Give me a more talented player that has to go thru some growing pains any day.

  • Matthew Marczi

    He wasn’t a starting cornerback in 2010.

  • sgtrobo

    couldn’t possibly agree more SSS

  • sgtrobo

    Anytime Gay or Mundy or McFadden or Anthony Madison or Tyrone Carter were out of position and get beat, you’ll see Troy streaking into the play screen and people say “oh it must’ve been Troy’s fault”. FFS, Troy can’t do EVERYTHING. He’s not the damn deep safety, he is about 3rd on the list of people to fault. Clark was cheating toward the CB who has about 9 professional snaps and assumed the veteran CB would do what he was supposed to do

    Problem is, William Gay may know what he’s doing, but he looks like a rookie when he’s on the field.

  • sgtrobo

    change “Rodgers victimized Gay this same way in SB” to “every QB with a lick of talent has victimized Gay this same way in every game he’s played” and you will be correct.

  • John Hinton

    Well said, well said! He has to go.

  • kev4heels

    that doesn’t look like cover-2 guys. CB’s wouldn’t be carrying their guys 30 yards downfield in a cover-2, no?

  • SteelersNick

    HAHAHAHHA good one.

  • SteelersNick

    Agreed. We already know William Gay and Curtis Brown can’t play. lets get some of the other guys out there and maybe someone else can step up and play nickel.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Whether he started or not, he allows lots of big plays.

  • SteelersDepot

    It’s cover-2

  • kev4heels

    Oh, well in that case…
    How about some explanation?
    Wasn’t trying to be a dick. Was just trying to drum up some discussion. Nice way to attract fans.

    Oh, and it may be cover-2 with deep help. But it’s not cover-2 in the normal sense of the definition. You very rarely see CB’s running 15 yards downfield in a cover-2. Now, if you want to say it’s cover-2 with the expected help from Safety’s, that’s cool. Nervermind…

  • SteelersDepot

    Cover-2 is two safeties splitting the field in half and
    having over the top responsibilities on anything on their half of the field. Gay trails until Philadelphia if he
    has to.