Tape Breakdown: Steelers Versus Redskins Game Notes – Preseason Week 2


By Alex Kozora

Full disclosure: This would have been up a lot sooner but NFL Rewind doesn’t archive nationally televised games until 24 hours after the game. But better now than never. My game notes from Monday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.

First Half

- Opening kickoff return unit. Kion Wilson, Marshall McFadden, Brian Rolle, Jarvis Jones, David Paulson, Cameron Heyward and Will Johnson (forming the two man “wedge”), Michael Palmer, Terry Hawthorne (upback), and Reggie Dunn as the KR.

- Started the game in 12 personnel with David Paulson and Jamie McCoy.

- Le’Veon Bell’s final carry could have been where the injury took place. Looks like Stephen Bowen and Daryl Tapp fell ontop of him. That’s over 550 pounds.

- On the play, Paulson whiffed on his block. Picture below.

PaulsonWhiff

- First punt. Curtis Brown and Shamarko Thomas the gunners. William Gay the upback (Robert Golden got first crack here last week). Others. Rolle, McFadden, Johnson, Paulson, Chris Carter.

- Josh Victorian the first cornerback into the game when the team went into nickel. Gay slid into the slot. So even with the depth chart changing, Victorian still appears to be the team’s #3.

- First sack Ben Roethlisberger took. Total breakdown on the interior line. Ramon Foster couldn’t mirror vs Bowen, Barry Cofield swam over Maurkice Pouncey (more on that in a moment) and David DeCastro got walked into the pocket.

- We get a good look at what went wrong with Pouncey on the play. Two big issues. Lunging and hand placement. This picture shows him lunging, not bringing his feet on his punch and getting overextended. Hard to derive power from that base.

PounceyLunge

And we also get a look at his hands. Way too low. Should be in the chest, inside the numbers. They’re in his kidneys.

PounceyLunge2

Not going to stop the powerful Cofield. And surprise! It didn’t.

- The Ryan Kerrigan INT. Not related to the play (which really was just a nice defensive effort, read Ben’s three step drop and knew the ball would come out quick) but Jericho Cotchery lined up in the backfield and released into the flats. A wrinkle to keep in mind.

-  2nd and 7 in the first quarter. Empty with Jonathan Dwyer split out wide. Something I noted when I went to practice last week.

- 3rd down draw on the third possession. Mike Adams needs to get a better punch of Tapp and push him upfield. Doesn’t and the play is doomed from the start.

- Jason Worilds pulled after one series in favor of Jones with the rest of the first team defense out there. Would not consider that to be a good sign for #93.

- 2nd and 7, 5:08 left in the 1st. Love this play from Jarvis Jones. Is responsible for sealing the edge, not letting the RB through the “D” gap. Base blocked by TE Fred Davis, holds the edge, forces the RB to cut inside, and then falls off the block and makes the tackle. Lot of responsibilities for Jones on this play and you can check all of them off.

- Sack by LaMarr Woodley. Good job walking Tyler Polumbus into the pocket. The other factor? LeBeau showing blitz and then dropping everyone into coverage. Had both ILBs in the “A” gap and Troy moving around on the line. Looks like blitz but when they drop, it totally changes the read for the QB and eliminates his hot reads. Forces him to take time to think and long enough for the defense to get the sack and get off the field.

- Some of the bodies I saw on punt return duty. Camera angle was rough so didn’t see many: Gay, Thomas, Ike Taylor, Robert Golden, and of course Markus Wheaton as the return man.

- Ben scramble/completion to Paulson. Mike Adams just stops on the play, letting Bowen come in free and almost hit Ben right before the throw. He should know by now the play can never be considered “over” with Ben under center.

- Pouncey’s hand placement all over the place. We showed you them being too low before and then he gets called for illegal hands to the face. Play had put the Steelers inside the five before being negated.

- 3rd and 18 run with 13:05 left in the 2nd that Dwyer nearly picked up a first down on. On the surface, it looks like a great run. Watching it again, it’s pretty easy to tell why he was able to pick up the chunk yards. Washington’s safety DeJon Gomes takes a horrible angle to the ball, something he did repeatedly in the first quarter. The runs Dwyer was able to bounce earlier? Gomes is crashing the “C” gap and getting walled off by Cotchery or Sanders. Here’s the angle Gomes took on this run.

Dwyer1-1

Now, you can’t fault Dwyer for taking advantage of that and picking up 16 yards but it wasn’t exactly a difficult run when you have enough green grass to make a Nebraskan farmer swoon in front of you.

- FG unit from L-R. Paulson, Cameron Heyward, Kelvin Beachum, DeCastro, Greg Warren, Foster, Marcus Gilbert, Adams, Jones. Brian Moorman the holder.

- Amoeba defense on 3rd and 7 with 10:03 left in the second. Blitz Ryan Clark, rush five. Drop Jones and Larry Foote into coverage.

- Again, McCoy getting reps as the #2 TE with the first team offense. After they went out, the TEs rotated the rest of the night between McCoy, Palmer, and a little bit of Nathan Overbay and Peter Titupou.

- One thing that may have thrown Gilbert off on the Kerrigan strip sack. The OLB originally lines up in the “C” gap and at the last second, slides one gap over. That means Gilbert is forced to take a deeper set and doesn’t get help from the releasing TE to slow the rush. Kerrigan dips under and strips Bruce Gradkowski. Two pictures to illustrate it.

Kerrigan1

Kerrigan2

- Love Jarvis Jones the FF too, obviously. Explodes through the “C” gap, runs through the FB, and tips the ball on the toss all in under 1.9 seconds.

- Here’s Paulson allowing the ‘backer to gain a step to the inside on a playaction. Paulson’s feet go dead and he lazily throws an arm at the defender. Not going to work and it didn’t.

PaulsonBeatInside

- With all the talk about the ZBS, there’s still a healthy dose of Power O being ran. With the LG and backside TE pulling.

- Paulson being blown back by LB Rob Jackson into Dwyer on his fumble.

- Worilds came In to replace Woodley at LOLB midway through the second quarter.

- Looked like Cover 0 on the Ike Taylor pass interference. Definitely no safety help over the top.

- Leonard Hankerson TD. Gay did get beat, guessed on the route. And he shouldn’t be trying to jump anything to the outside, even if it makes sense to see a corner route with the TE Paulsen releasing into the flat (combination you’ll get in the red zone). Troy Polamalu is dropping into a hook zone so let him sink against any outside breaking routes. Gay has to protect the inside. He guesses and as soon as he flips his hips to the outside, Hankerson has won.

GayTD

- Saw this concept a ton with Todd Haley in Kansas City. Loves mesh routes on 3rd down with the WRs or a TE and WR running crossers. Ran it repeatedly.

- Loved to see Emmanuel Sanders going across the middle on back-to-back catches, plucking the ball away from his body each time. No alligator arms for him.

- Play after the two minute warning. Adams gets beat on an inside spin after getting called for holding trying to defend it earlier in the game. Comes off the snap well but struggles when the OLB performs the spin. The goal here? As soon as you see the spin, you have to get your right foot/body out in front on a 45 degree angle, just like on your kickslide (but of course here, to the opposite side). That cuts off the angle the rusher has and puts you in control to block or mirror him. What does Adams do? He takes a step back with his right foot, letting the OLB rush perpendicular to the LOS. At the last second, Adams tries to get out in front but it’s too late. Luckily, Foster is there to bail him out.

At the risk of that being way too wordy, here’s a replay of it.

- Second team defense right before the half. Heyward and Brian Arnfelt at DE, Carter and Jones at OLB, Brian Rolle and Marshall McFadden at ILB, Victorian and Isaiah Green at CB, Curtis Brown in the nickel, and Robert Golden and Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith at safety.

- DeCastro struggled to play low enough in pass protection throughout the first half. Lineman were getting into his chest.

Second Half

- Some bodies I saw on kick coverage to start the second half. Batch, Carter, Vince Williams, Worilds, Ross Ventrone, McFadden, Cromartie-Smith, McCoy, and Derek Moye.

- Base 34 to start the second. Just to add onto who all was playing. Al Woods running as the second team nose. Green and Victorian playing over Curtis Brown at CB.

- Saw three of the four jammers (double vice to each side) on the Redskins’ first punt of the 3rd. Cromartie-Smith, Brown, and Terry Hawthorne.

- 2nd team OL to start the 3rd. L-R. Beachum, Chris Hubbard, John Malecki, Guy Whimper, D’Anthony Batiste.

- Ventrone a gunner on the Steelers’ first punt. Golden the upback. Again, upback is an important position to note because Ryan Mundy held that spot last season.

- Just another example of Jarvis not getting low enough, not showing enough bend around the edge. Something I noted in my breakdown of his play last week. ROLB.

- When the Steelers showed their first 2 WR set of the second half, it was with Wheaton and Moye.

- Really perplexing play for Dwyer in the third. No reason to bounce this run to the outside. But does it anyway and only picks up three.

- With Will Johnson sidelined, McCoy picked up a lot of reps out of the backfield. Versatility is huge for Tomlin.

- 2nd and 10, 1:23 left. Like the play from Landry Jones. Beachum gets beat but Jones climbs the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and hits Moye on a crosser (another Mesh concept).

- Good blitz pickup from Hubbard and Alvester Alexander on the Moye TD.

- More subs on defense. Hebron Fangupo at nose (over Alameda Ta’amu), Nick Williams replacing Cam Heyward at DE, Vince Williams/Kion Wilson at ILB, Adrian Robinson/Alan Baxter at OLB, Terry Hawthorne at CB, and Ross Ventrone/Shamrko Thomas at FS and SS, respectively.

- Another thing Haley loves to do is motion receivers to a nasty split and hit them on a curl or drag. Multiple times throughout the game.

- Ta’amu’s first snap at NT. C puts an arm into him flowing away on a fake stretch and he falls onto the ground.

- Little stuff from a rookie like Thomas can be just as important as the big stuff like his FF. 2nd and 10 early in the 4th, Thomas at the nickelback. Sees the read option off the snap but still dropping in case it’s playaction. Then once he sees run, he breaks on the ball, doesn’t get walled off by the WR and chips in on the tackle.

- Rushed Adrian Robinson, a DE at Temple, out of a three point stance (hand down) a few times in the game.

- Sloppy tackling on punt coverage with nine minutes left to go. Three or four missed tackles before Michael Palmer saved a TD.

- On the punt that was nearly a TO before an illegal touching penalty against Washington negated it, the TV broadcast shows Tomlin yelling at Reggie Dunn. Looks like he’s saying that he has to be more demonstrative in telling his guys to get away from the ball.

- Joe Long replaced Batiste at RT. Honestly, Batiste was just as bad as Guy Whimper. Couldn’t hold his block vs the run, got pushed around, and generally looked lost out there.

- But make no mistake, Whimper was awful. Last week against the Giants, the issue was him opening his gate at tackle (picture below). And pretty much everything went wrong at guard. 333 pound Chris Baker once beat him to the inside. Let that sink in for a moment.

WorstBlockingEver

- Palmer with two big open field tackles on punt coverage. Remember Danny Smith will have a big influence over the final roster spots. And Palmer is not a lock to make the team, especially with David Johnson coming off the PUP today.

- Alan Baxter and Adrian Robinson fooled on zone read on back-to-back plays. Pictures.

AlanBaxter

AdrianRobinson

- There was a player getting fooled on almost every play. Capped off by Robert Golden looking bad on the Roy Helu TD.

- Terrance Garvin replaced Wilson at ILB late in the 4th. Ryan Steed and Devin Smith the last pair of CBs to enter.

- Kashif Moore, JD Woods the last set of kick returners.

- Jeremy Wright logged a few snaps at RB late in the game.

- Nice interception by Smith. Good job staying inbounds.

- Don’t feel nearly as good about Landry Jones as I initially did watching the game live. The line didn’t help him at all but he should have thrown two or three INTs that were dropped. Didn’t make any “Wow” throws either. But still a great bet to make the 53.

Punter Battle

Hangtimes/distances for each punter in this ongoing battle.

Brian Moorman: 3.78 (36) 4.75 (38)

Drew Butler: 4.63 (53) 4.65 (40) 4.55 (41) 4.8 (51)

Danny Smith considers an NFL punt to be 4.5 seconds and travel 42 yards. Moorman had zero with Butler registering two and was close on the two others. With two last week, Butler has four. Moorman had one last week.

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  • steeltown

    Great great job

    Wow.. its a good thing Paulson has been catching everything thrown his way because if he was being evaluated on blocking alone he wouldn’t make the 53man at this point, he really needs more work in that dept.

    Palmer might make the Team with his play on special teams alone

    Really looks like the coaching staff like Brian Rolle.. he’s been playing alongside M.Mcfadden with the 2nd Team often

  • Alex Kozora

    Like I said in my play-by-play breakdown, he understands angles well but doesn’t do well against straight base blocks. Doesn’t have the functional strength to hold up.

    Yeah, the ST is huge for Palmer. Because even if Miller hits the PUP (fairly likely) or doesn’t play the first few weeks (almost certain) and Spaeth is out, there’s still Paulson, McCoy, and Johnson as competition. Obviously, McCoy isn’t a lock and we need to see where Johnson stands off the ACL but the ST gives Palmer the edge. Though McCoy and Johnson have played there too.

  • steeltown

    Agreed.. its too early to say DJ will or will not make the Team.. I could see McCoy earning himself a spot, he’s been around long enough and is kind of a jack of all trades guy.. guess we’ll see

  • cencalsteeler

    Wow Alex. What a great deal of info. you have provided for us. Great work!

  • Shea Fahr

    Nice breakdown Alex and we were all scratching our heads during the game when Dwyer tried to bounce that outside.

  • David Cowings

    reporters hardly ever know what they are talking about… 90% of the time its some fat guy whose never played a down of real football in their life trying to evaluate players or speak on certain plays that they have the slightest clue on… I so happen to understand football, and clearly you can tell on the run by “Helu” the steelers was in a zero blitz. man to man coverage for those of you who dont know what that is. Golden had the TIGHT END all the way on the touchdown run. he was eyeing his coverage, and when the ball hit up the middle, he was not in position to make the play because he had split action by the back tight end… how can you say he looked horrible on that play when he was doing his job?

    The defense is playing well. No one, or team is perfect during preseason.. really watch and evaluate film before you speak on people that you have no understanding of what their roll is during the time.

  • AndyR34

    Wow! Thanks for calling out the ‘fat guy’ reporter that doesn’t understand the game…nor ever played it. We might never have known about this colossal mis-read/diagnosis of this one play of all of the ones that Alex kindly pointed out for us. Maybe after the next game you can take your expertise and understanding and do the analysis for everyone. That way there will be no mistakes made! And everyone can benefit from your unique skills!

  • patrick Mayfield

    Nice work!

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