Steelers Versus Bengals I – First Half Notes And Observations

By Matthew Marczi

  • Isaac Redman pretty visibly got the worst of the action during a collision on the opening kickoff with undrafted rookie linebacker Jayson DiManche. The two both lowered their shoulders, and Redman appeared to get the business end of the shoulder to his head.
  • Remember, Redman was playing the up back because of the season-ending injury to LaRod Stephens-Howling, which pushed Felix Jones from the up back to the returner, and forced Redman to play the up back.
  • One wonders how much the injury impacted the team’s game plan, which resulted in Jones getting the start and the bulk of the carries. When Redman was finally able to return, he was still ineffective, however.
  • Antwon Blake made his presence felt on the first punt, getting down the field—then getting knocked down after being double teamed—and ultimately making the tackle after the returner was penned in.
  • Cameron Heyward replacing Ziggy Hood on obvious passing situations in the nickel seems to be the plan going forward at this point, which is fine by me. Heyward is clearly the better pass rusher of the two.
  • Antonio Brown answered the question “why would you have your top receiver returning punts” fairly convincingly with his first return of the game, which put the Steelers in field goal range and allowed them to score despite not gaining a first down on their first two drives.
  • Ben Roethlisberger had Emmanuel Sanders on the ensuing play into the end zone, but he just overthrew him. Sanders may have been slowed a half step by the defensive back, but he had the separation necessary in the end to bring in a better thrown ball.
  • David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert both got outmuscled on the next play, which resulted in a sack. Frankly, I am seeing too much of this from DeCastro, to the point that it is becoming a concern.
  • I liked the call for a draw on the third and long to get into manageable field goal range at that point. Felix Jones did a good job of reading his blocks (including one by David Paulson down the field) to pick up as much as he could.
  • Shaun Suisham’s hamstring looked pretty good to me on that field goal, and then the kickoff to the back of the end zone.
  • David Johnson took a rep at fullback for Jonathan Dwyer’s sole carry during the game and did a nice job.
  • So did Will Johnson. Interesting to see both of them in the backfield at the same time.
  • Paulson displayed disappointing awareness not to attempt to cover up the ball after he had it stripped from him after his long reception. Even if he felt that he was already down before the ball was out, he still should have had the presence of mind to go after it to avoid…well, to avoid what ended up happening.
  • Shame on the coaching staff for being more concerned with getting the right personnel on the field than running a play to elude the risk of losing possession of the ball. The decision almost certainly cost the Steelers points, as they were on the 16-yard line before giving the Bengals enough time to review and challenge the play.
  • Vince Williams saw his first snap following that turnover and was targeted in the passing game on the first play, allowing a reception for a short gain to Jermaine Gresham.
  • We all know that Ryan Clark blew his assignment by cheating to his right when he should have picked up Tyler Eifert on the go route, so there’s really no need to elaborate on it. He added some missed tackles to go with somewhat of a rough night.
  • The Steelers’ interior triangle broke down on Giovani Bernard’s touchdown run. By triangle, I of course refer to the nose tackle and the inside linebackers. The personnel on this play included Al Woods, Williams, and Lawrence Timmons. Woods was beaten off the snap by the right guard, who used his shoulder to push the nose tackle out of the play far too easily, while the linebackers were easily handled by the center and right tackle before it was too late.
  • It was really disappointing to see Jerricho Cotchery drop that pass, especially after I’d just written about how reliable he was in the first game. The drop came on a second and seven play that likely would have converted a first down, and helped stall the team’s offensive momentum.
  • Steve McLendon got manhandled on the opening play of the second quarter on a second and one run right up the middle. He was knocked off his feet immediately by the center, and then the right guard made sure to keep him out of the play by holding his arm. That is a penalty, of course, but McLendon was out of the play already. His being knocked out of position made Vince Williams look worse than he actually performed on that play as well, although he did himself no favors by overpursuing to the right.
  • Heyward will be keeping his job on nickel packages if he continues to add ball-batting ability to his resume.
  • Isaac Redman’s first carry of the game failed because DeCastro failed to secure his block on a pull to the left. Had he done so, Redman would have surely taken a wide open cutback lane. The result was DeCastro and Paulson both pulling and attempting to block the same person, neither of which do successfully, and discouraging a cutback run in the process.
  • Shamarko Thomas continues to do a nice job as a gunner on special teams. On this occasion, he did not make the tackle, but he drew a flag, which may have prevented him from making the tackle in the first place.
  • Unblocked yet again, but another week, another tackle in the backfield for Jarvis Jones.
  • Jones also seemed more comfortable in coverage and as a pass rusher this week. While going after the quarterback, he was more likely to employ a secondary move after being initially stalemated.
  • Great coverage by LaMarr Woodley to drop the tight end for no gain. That is an underrated facet of his game.
  • This game could have been a lot worse if Andy Dalton were more accurate on the night.
  • Of course, it also could have been a lot better if Roethlisberger were more accurate.
  • It’s easy to criticize the wide receiver screens when you ignore the times they work. Antonio Brown had an explosive play on his hands if he could have stayed on his feet.
  • Nice of Derek Moye to show that he can do exactly what the Steelers would have been asking Plaxico Burress to do this year.
  • Jarvis Jones followed up that touchdown with a big special teams tackle at the 15. He forced a fair catch earlier in the game.
  • The Steelers spent all but one play on the final drive of the half in the dime, or the ‘quarter’ defense, with Robert Golden as the third safety, although in reality Troy Polamalu was effectively playing inside linebacker on some of those snaps.

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

    Yea I still cant get over how Paulson just got up and walked away after the fumble..the ball was laying there on the ground for a second or two before anyone jumped on it. He could’ve easily regained possession, whata bone head play this is FOOTBALL man secure the ball, maintain the ball, jump on the ball, fight for the ball, never let anyone else have the ball. Its not that difficult to keep that mentality.

  • Chad H

    Thanks for your analysis on DeCastro. I saw the same thing and posted that he does not look like a serviceable backup and was shot down by other members. DeCastro looks far from the #1 draft pick and far from the best guard in his draft class.
    Will he get better, we will see. But with the way he is playing I have my doubts. I believe he will be on the roster this year and maybe next season after that he will be considered a draft bust.

  • steeltown

    It was basically the 6th game of his career, 5th as a starter..and he was going against some of the best in the League, like Geno Atkins. I’ll reserve judgment on DeCastro after he gets some experience. Its alittle early to be calling him a bust.

  • Chad H

    I partially agree with you. I should have stated in my opinion. With that being said when you are drafted where he was, it was to go against guys like Atkins and win those battles.
    Also IMO I also partially believe the lack of his play is because he does not trust the guy to his right.

  • steeltown

    Yea I keep telling myself the same thing..he’s playing next to Gilbert.. not to say that his play early in his career hasn’t been concerning as Marczi put it.. but its still early on

  • Bilgewater D

    He looks more like a center to me.

  • Jeff

    I was screaming at my TV haha…. I don’t know if someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like the whistle blew before cinci picked up the ball. He was awarded the ball because there was clear video evidence that he would have picked up the ball if it did not blow. If Paulson even made an attempt at it, and the whistle had blew, would it not have mattered who recovered it after the whistle, just Steelers ball? Either way, shame on Paulson for not even trying. He looked confused after the tackle, but he knew he didn’t have the ball and he certainly didn’t look too interested in finding it….

  • steeltown

    Im not sure… but yea im mad because he didn’t even attempt to recover it. In todays game coaches throw red flags every week in every game. Why take the chance? Take the initiative and regain possession in every instance

  • Steeler Wheeler

    The whistle did blow before the recovery, but after Paulson made no effort for the ball. If it’s going to be an obvious recovery, then the officials can award the ball to the defense. Paulson made a bad physical and mental play. Sure would be nice to have seen the defense up 10-0.

  • Jeff

    So if I interpret the rules correctly, if Paulson made an effort for the ball and it WOULDN’T have been an obvious recovery by the bengals, Steelers would have gotten the ball back regardless of whether the bengals ended up with the ball… ugh!

  • sean mcmartin

    It’s not just Paulson, The Steelers should take a day of practice and go over the basic rules every player should already know.
    and Tomlin needs to be required to read Game Management for Dummies and then be tested on his retention of the material before coaching another game.

  • Mike Carroll

    The thing is I think Paulson seemed to know he might have fumbled based on the way he turned back to look for the ball after first heading back toward the line for a second. But, the point is he should have known immediately there was problem as soon as the ball left his hands and should have scrambled to recover it is quickly as possible. One more sign he is not a good player. Actually two more considering both his fumble and his reaction were problems.

  • Mike Carroll

    I took it as a very troubling sign when DeCastro admitted to Ben last year that the physical part of the game was tough for him. For some reason, a lot people spun that as an OK thing, saying it would be worse if he had problems with the mental part of the game. I never understood that analysis because a Stanford grad should have no problem correcting mental errors, while physical inferiority is much bigger problem. I know it’s early in his career, but it’s disappointing to see him get manhandled as much as he has already. I’m at least confident he will put in the work to attempt to improve. Maybe a couple whippings by Geno Atkins will spur him to better games ahead.