Fernando Velasco Struggles On The Move Against The Vikings

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By Matthew Marczi

When Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey went down in the season opener, the team was lucky that a player such as Fernando Velasco was available to come off the street and play the position just a week later.

By no means, however, does that mean that he is not without his warts.

Take, for example, the following play, in which he is blown up off the line of scrimmage by the defensive tackle, disrupting a carry by Le’Veon Bell.

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The tackle gets enough initial leverage that he walks Velasco back into the pulling David Johnson, which disrupts the flow of the blocking pattern. Bell is fortunate enough to end up with a two-yard gain on the play.

One of the appeals of Velasco was his familiarity with zone schemes, and some display of aptitude on the move. As the samples below suggest, however, he still has a long way to go to live up to Dermontti Dawson pulling from center.

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On the first play, Velasco is too slow to get out to linebacker Erin Henderson. Had he done so, wide receiver Markus Wheaton would certainly have gained at least a few more yards at the end of this run and made it more clear that it was a first down, had he not actually been able to break free. Instead, Henderson out-maneuvers Velasco to make the tackle.

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Later in the first quarter, Henderson once again proves too quick for Velasco on the Antonio Brown end-around. In this instance, however, it is Henderson’s own inertia that prevents him from making the play, as Velasco hardly gets a fingernail on him despite the play’s ultimate success.

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In the final example, Velasco is simply pulling and looking for something to do. He presumes that his fellow linemen reach their blocks and hold them. Perhaps it is somewhat difficult to judge him too harshly for being unable to locate an assignment on this play, but he could certainly have helped out Ramon Foster on Henderson.

This is not to say that Velasco was a bad signing; I have already said otherwise. However, it should at least calm the discussion that the Steelers should just let Pouncey walk because Velasco has all the answers.

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

    I see what you did there, Matthew. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Velaso, while I AM one of those guy who wants to let Maurkice Pouncey walk but I don’t think Velaso is the answer either. I see Pouncey as Mike Wallace of center position, completely luxury based on his “reputation” and name. I feel like we no longer can keep the bad seeds or sign players for more than value would appears. Pouncey is far from being the best center in league, so it is this easy for me to see this and a financial situation we are in and say, “I hope he walks”. However don’t think he will, Colbert probably will sign him to an extension so Colbert wouldn’t look like an ass.

  • dkoy85

    So your saying start over from square one? We are obviously in need of some tackles, specifically LT now let a quality center go and, what, find another quality center in the draft? Along with a couple tackles? Oh, and a left guard? Throwing all the top round picks out the window? Pouncey and Velasco need to be signed and battle for the center position with the loser moved to LG.

    We need to draft a quality left tackle with our top pick- he doesn’t need to be an All-Pro, just consistent. Then Pouncey and Velasco battle over center and Adams and GIlbert battle over RT- loser of RT becomes a serviceable backup with Beachum the 5 headed beast. And then we finally have depth. No way should they let Pouncey walk and your damn right Colbert would look like an ass if he did.

  • Jason

    I agree with a lot of what you said except that if we draft a LT with our top pick as you suggest it will likely be a top 10 pick and he better darn well be all pro caliber and not just consistent to warrant a pick that high.Plus if we have to use a #1 pick on a T we lose regardless because we’ve just admitted we blew 2 more 2nd rd picks on Gilbert and Adams

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I don’t think you realize the price Pouncey will be commanding for… Alex Mack is a free agent, watch him- his contract will be the key because he is easily the best center in game, rightfully my opinion. We already gave bad contracts to Max Starks, Willie Colon, and Chris Kemoeatu. I do not think Colbert would hesitate on giving Pouncey a bad one either. Re-signing Pouncey WILL cost us other much more valued positions like for instant, say Heath Miller or Troy Polamalu. Their careers are likely to be halted by the contract of Pouncey and then what?

    We ARE still at square one. Heck drafting a left tackle with our first pick won’t even fix this O-line problem! How long does it take for us to see the problem is within scheme/quarterbacking/coaching. We need a veteran presence, Levi Brown isn’t the answer at LT at all, but if he is to be moved to LG, yes this will be a big boost!

  • dkoy85

    I guess it’s a revolving door. It’s a tough position the Steelers are in all around.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Only- the top left tackles in this draft aren’t the caliber of Kalil/Joe Thomas. Not even on the level of Jake Long. If we were to sign a free agent, I want Rodger Saffold. He’ll be a really good left tackle, a next Marvel Smith. People say he’s bad but people forgot what a bad situation Rams are in, heck even Jake Long is struggling.

    First thing among FIRST, you got to do is find a best left guard you can get… DeCastro can be that guy but it might be a while until he develops as one. Left guards boost left tackle/center more thananyone would think. It is not a coincidence Browns and Raiders both O-line struggles badly even with top 5 left tackles and centers.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I know… sigh, I know! It sucks, it really is. That’s why we got to gamble and go big on left tackle. Like I mentioned above, i’d love me a Rodger Saffold. He’s got all the bad rap due to being a Ram, that O-line is in much worse condition compared to us. I mean, I already realized that other teams does have same problem as ours. It’s already proven draft isn’t really an answer for us.

    I love Colbert, he’s great with finding talents among every other positions- except for O-line… maybe D-line. I suggest that he leave those positions for free agency, at least that’s what I would do.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I honestly do not think we have the luxury to let him go. We have so many holes in this team that we cannot afford to let him walk. We let 2 young guys walk this year which IMO is insane since this team has problems finding young good talent, although I agree with letting Wallace go into FA because we knew someone would overpay for him. We have to keep someone.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    If we had all the salary cap, i’d NOT let Pouncey walk at all. Thing is.. we don’t. Colbert messed up by retaining veterans that didn’t produced what would be an equivalent to their contracts. I looked at 2014-2015 salary cap scenario, and it does seem like we will have to let Polamalu or AND Heath Miller go. We have too many bad drafts to begin with (3 bad drafts is a LOT) between 08′ and 10′ that now we are in this situation.

    I no longer am interested in winning and am a loyal fan firsthand, I just want us to GET out of this salary cap hell. NO more contracts reconstruction, just no more.

  • dkoy85

    I agree- it’s time to start digging deep and signing some quality lineman, including LT(depending where we draft) We really need to get a big time playmaker on D thru the draft as well as a probowl caliber TE as Millers future replacement- plus it’d be nice to have a sweet TE duo- I mean come on… David Johnson is having some monster catches and he’s as slow as the hair growing on my balls!

    Also, Jarvis needs to keep his quick burst while packing on the lb’s in the offseason.

  • Chad H

    Did u see the pass rush the Jets had vs the Falcons? I had us beating the Jets now I will put that in the loss column. Levi Brown or not it will be a long game for LT, RT and LG.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I’m not quite sure we will win against Jets… remember the problem is everywhere including the defense. We can’t stop run nor pass. Tackling is a big problem. One can hope though!

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I always have thought Jarvis Jones is better off playing inside. He doesn’t have the speed to be outside pass-rusher, heck he’s not really a pass-rush. He’s a prototypical 3-4 OLB who can pass-rush in situations.

    We are SOOO deep in the cap hell that we can’t… replace everything at once. Sucks but its true. This draft class look like the best we had since 2007 and that’s bad. Not bad in comparison but it took us this long to stock up a roster? Come on. Its frustrating.

  • dollardoughtnut

    how about we cut some large contracts off the top of our cap – use the money to sign a LT and DT the use the top picks for a big WR and a cover corner

  • PA2AK

    #1 – ouch
    #2 – the pass off with the DL slowed him up and the D was in pretty decent position here. not great…not miserable.
    #3 – got what he needed on what would have been a very tough head up block on a stretch play. He IS a lineman against a LB at the second level. Not an easy task. Snapped the ball at the right hash and made contact 5 yards beyond the LOS and 5 yards to the left of the left hash…thats pretty decent range for a Center to be able to even get a hand on him. Solid gain on the play too.
    #4 – where the Fuuuuuu is AB going? follow the fat guys please.

  • Ron

    Good thoughts. What do you think about Velasco at center and Pouncy at left guard next year?

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Trust me I get it. We are between a rock and a hard place. We just need to wait and see what Pouncey will want, if it is something crazy then yes but we need to try and keep some talent no matter what.

  • Dr. Doom

    To quote Mark Madden Say it with me: Velasco is a Backup, Backup, Backup, Backup, Backup, Backup. maybe he could unseat Pouncey if he does good? Backup, Backup, Backup, Backup.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I have thought about that, it sound good but.. Pouncey haven’t shown he can control the trench line and get a push with leverage since he last did in his rookie year. Thetorically, just an idea but Marcus Gilbert seem to be a better fit at guard. He had his best year at Florida as a guard.

    That’s where i’d put him. Also don’t think Pouncey will like the “demotion”.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Yeah. I just don’t we should wait though,get replacements now or via off-season asap.

  • Xclewsive

    The displeasure with Pouncey is crazy he hasn’t even sniffed his prime. He was drafted as a 20 yr old kid. Good gosh this kid has embodied toughness know his play has matched, but neither has the talent around him. Can’t chastise Pouncey because the current crop of OL has been poo.

  • r4kolb

    Lets all remember the Steelers philosophy…draft by best available talent..highest on board over need. The first pick will be the best available player if they stay true to form.

  • Richard Edlin

    I don’t think anyone can sensibly claim the Steelers shouldn’t try to extend Pouncey. It doesn’t hurt to have an option though, and that’s all Velasco offers.

  • walter mason

    Sadly I agree NO MORE RESTRUCTURING away our future.

  • AndyR34

    Good analysis, but I disagree w/Matthew…DeCastro whiffs on his block on #93 who then hits Bell in the backfield knocking him off-stride and allowing the LB to make the tackle. I think Velasco did OK…maybe could have held his block a little longer, but his man didn’t make the play…nor did Johnson’s. Cotch couldn’t seal off his man so Bell had to cut it up and got caught by the left side LB who came a long way.

  • charles

    Ben himself said that Oline had improved since signing Velasco.

  • gene mann

    SORRY BUT THERE WILL BE ONLY ONE DIRT.

  • gene mann

    I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THEM BOTH NEXT YEAR WITH ONE AS LG

  • gene mann

    Maybe we can get Mike Pouncey down the road

  • Matthew Marczi

    That is a possibility, although I’m not yet convinced Velasco is better than Foster, especially since I haven’t seen Velasco at guard.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Assuming you are talking about the first play…the whole play is blown up because Velasco is pushed back into Johnson, and then Bell bumps into Johnson. If the play developed as it was supposed to (e.g. if Velasco wasn’t pushed back into Johnson), DeCastro’s man would have been irrelevant and the players who did tackle him wouldn’t have had an added head start.

  • Xclewsive

    Ben also said “who’s laughing now OL” when that was by far the worse SB winning OL in NFL history.

  • AndyR34

    Yes…talking about the first play…and I still respectfully disagree. Clearly, Velasco being forced back did not help matters at all, but I do not see that as the principle cause of the problem with this play. Johnson still blocked his man effectively and I don’t see Bell being significantly impeded by Johnson. Now I can’t be certain what ‘hole’ Bell was supposed to hit and maybe it was over Velasco in which case you would be correct, but if Bell was supposed to look or fake inside and go outside, then I think DeCastro’s whiff is the biggest problem. DeCastro’s whiff screws up any inside run also. Then again…I am just a fan and don’t know who was supposed to lock who, nor where Bell was supposed to go.