By Alex Kozora
Game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers/Minnesota Vikings Week Four matchup.
CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE
- Opening kickoff coverage.
L1 – Robert Golden
L2 – Shamarko Thomas
L3 – William Gay
L4 – Terence Garvin
L5 – Jarvis Jones
R1 – Chris Carter
R2 – Kion Wilson
R3 – Markus Wheaton
R4 – Curtis Brown
R5 – Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith
- Just for note-keeping purposes, Vince Williams got his first career start at Buck linebacker.
- Ike Taylor nearly had over the shoulder INT on first drive but good defensive play by Cordarrelle Patterson to knock it away. Let the Vikings still come away with three points.
- KR unit. Front five: Wilson, Garvin, Carter, Thomas, Williams. Michael Palmer and David Paulson behind with Al Woods and Cam Heyward forming the wedge. Jonathan Dwyer the upback for Felix Jones.
- Started the game offensively in a Heavy set. David Johnson and Will Johnson in the game with Markus Wheaton the lone receiver.
- On that play. Vikings overload blitz the right side with the Steelers slide protecting to the opposite side.
LB on blitz comes in free.
- 3rd and 4 on the first drive. Five man rush but every OL covered pre-snap. Forces Pittsburgh to guess where the blitz is coming from. Slide the wrong way again and the linebacker free again.
- Curtis Brown/Thomas the gunners with Golden the upback.
- Penalty negated the play but kudos to Jason Worilds for chasing down the Vikings PR on the long return.
- Easy read for Matt Cassel here and shows the power of motion. Slot receiver motions across the formation and William Gay doesn’t follow, giving away zone coverage. Single high safety between the hashes shows Cover 3. Cassel hits the receiver on the curl for an easy six yard gain.
- Look how far left tackle Matt Kalil pushes Jarvis Jones up the arc on this play.
- Same play, Cam Heyward reverse pancakes center John Sullivan and gets “A” gap pressure on Cassel. Strong start to the year for Heyward.
- Greg Jennings’ first touchdown. Again, Cassel recognizing coverage. Cortez Allen giving Jennings a cushion and again, Golden between the hashes in a single high look. Cover 3. Curl to Jennings (bottom of the picture) pitch and catch.
And then the Steelers follow up with four missed tackles. If you’re going to play off coverage and force the underneath throws, you have to be sound tacklers or there isn’t a benefit.
Also don’t like the poor 90 degree angles from Golden and Gay on the play. Let Jennings have an easy cutback.
- Know the team is selling a run fake on this play but Mike Adams lunging severely vs Jared Allen. No contest for the end who blows through. Showed an inability to get his lower half under him in the first four weeks.
- Ben Roethlisberger’s 36 yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders. Man-free, only three in coverage. Great throw to hit Sanders in stride.
- Another issue of the lineman not being able to work to the second level on combo blocks. Gilbert unable to work to the MIKE Erin Henderson (#50) here. Linebacker in on the tackle.
- Le’Veon Bell touchdown. Two things to point out. Bell did make Chad Greenway miss but great job for Will Johnson to dive and push Greenway aside. Not sure why he was asked to make that block in the first place. More logical for David Johnson to. And then Heath seals the DB on the edge to spring the rookie for his first career TD. (GIF, 4:08 1st, EZ view)
- First Vikings punt. Double vice jammers. Gay/Brown on one side, Thomas/Ike the other. Others on punt return. Golden, DCS, Garvin, Wilson, Paulson, Worilds, Antonio Brown the PR.
- Fernando Velasco, uh, stretching his legs out.
- Adrian Peterson 60 yard touchdown. Vince Williams in the same gap as Hood. Phil Loadholt effectively taking out two defenders.
Joe Webb cracks Troy and Peterson has a lane, doing the rest to find the end zone.
- Ran fake bubble screen twice. Once the Vikings weren’t fooled but Ben hit Heath Miller on a 12 yard dig later in the game.
- 1st and Goal, 4:58 2nd. Nice job by Bell to make something out of nothing. Velasco driven off the ball, penetration in the backfield but Bell able to bounce to the edge and plant and get upfield for a two yard gain.
- Good jam by Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson vs Heath on a fade at the goalline. Able to negate size advantage Miller has with a good press off the line.
- Patterson’s 42 yard kick return. Garvin pushed off to the left, big gap between L4 (Garvin) and L5 (Jones).
Little things I love to watch our cornerbacks to. Like cutting a pulling guard to take him out of the play so Troy can work off the fullback and tackle Peterson. Happened late in the second quarter to hold the back to just a two yard gain.
- Great 3rd and 8 tackle by Gay on Jennings late in the second to force a field goal. Jennings running an angle route (flat then breaking back on a slant) that’s tough to defend for a cornerback. Gay made the play.
- Antonio Brown pass interference early in the third that put the ball on the one. Just a two man route off playaction vs a two deep shell. But Harrison Smith stiff and flips his hips too late and Brown is able to blow past.
- Power O the next two plays on the goalline. David DeCastro leading on both.
- Heath with a key block on Bell’s second TD. Seals Chad Greenway to the inside on a combo block after working off Jared Allen. For those scoring at home, that’s him having a key block on both of Bell’s touchdowns. Maybe he can play left tackle?
- Jerome Simpson 51 yard catch. Golden guessing and driving on Jarius Wright putting him out of position on the play once Cassel targets Simpson.
- Simple stuff here. 3rd and 1, a get off opportunity for the defense. G-Lead and the FB and pulling guard both target the same defender allowing Vince Williams to shoot through free. Can’t make open field tackle on Peterson as he rolls for a first down. The Vikings score on the next play. Difficult task for the rookie? You bet. But a play that has to be made.
- Peterson second touchdown. Window dressing the Steelers bit on. Jennings sent across the field and into the flats to mimic a boot that would fit Jennings in the flat. LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark flow that way opening up a huge cutback lane. Timmons over pursues the other way, too.
And a look from the end zone angle…
- DeCastro got whipped by Kevin Williams all day. Williams’ hands just too quick. Multiple examples but here’s one. Inside zone and Williams just tosses him aside, getting penetration and blowing the play up. (GIF, 7:14 3rd, EZ view)
- Greenway INT. Scramble drill. Sanders initially sits down vs zone under (rules are to sit vs zone, run vs man).
Then Sanders begins to run again. Ben throws the ball.
And then he starts to sit down again. Ball goes right into the hands of Greenway who was on the same page with Ben better than the receiver.
- Greg Jennings second touchdown. Nasty split + outside release causes Cortez Allen to open his hips to the outside. As soon as Jennings breaks inside on the dig, he’s won the route.
- Marcus Gilbert struggled badly vs inside spin moves. Beat at least twice in the third quarter.
- Bell trying to pass block by putting his head down and leading with his shoulder. Erin Henderson (#50) runs him over. Lots of work in pass protection for the rookie to do. Did not look good.
- Check out the arm strength from Ben on his touchdown throw to Jerricho Cotchery. Know it isn’t a 50 yard throw but this was all arm. Nothing from the lower half. Ben literally is jumping when he releases the pass.
- With Ramon Foster’s injury, Guy Whimper came in on the FG unit.
- Brett Keisel did a great job blowing up stretch runs. Matt Kalil couldn’t block him.
- Good block by Sanders on Cotchery’s catch on the first play of the final drive. Sprung him another 10 yards.
- Antonio Brown double clutch catch. Slant/flat concept. Ben looks flat, sees the linebacker flow that way, and throws to the open slant.
- Kelvin Beachum getting beat by Everson Griffen on the sack/fumble to end the game (as I brokedown in my sack breakdown) happened 2-3 times earlier in the half. Griffen ripping under Beachum. So not surprising that was his go-to move in the game’s most crucial moment.
- I’m tempted to go back and count the number of clean pockets Roethlisberger had in this game. Probably on less than ten of his 51 attempts. And it showed not only his ability to run around and make a play but mobility inside the pocket that is rarely discussed. He’s one of the best at that, too.
- Just my two cents but the changes I would make if I was in charge (a terrifying thought).
1. Start Kelvin Beachum over Mike Adams at left tackle pending Ramon Foster’s health.
Not breaking any ground with that one, however.
2. Fire offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr.
And I rarely, rarely suggest to can a coach. Judging their work is something that can usually only be seen Monday-Saturday.
But with the mental mistakes the line has continued to make and their inability to master simple concepts like picking up T/E stunts or getting to the second level on combo blocks is beyond frustrating. The team is using Bicknell’s zone blocking scheme less and less each week anyway getting back to their power runs.
This is a line that should be progressing but is regressing.
3. Bench Jarvis Jones in favor of Jason Worilds.
This one is probably going to leave the angriest comments below. And it’s not that Jones has been terrible. He’s been fantastic against the run showing strength and ability to get off blocks. I’ll be the first to point out to play under Dick LeBeau, you have to be strong against the run.
But for a team that has yet to cause a turnover and ranked tied for last in sacks with a paltry four, something has to give. And it’s clear Jarvis Jones is raw as a pass rusher. He doesn’t show a repertoire and doesn’t show bend coming around the edge. Tackles are just pushing him up the arc. Worilds is a more superior pass rusher and will generate more pressure.
The same could be said for Cam Heyward over Ziggy Hood. Hood has been fine but Heyward has gotten a ton of pressure rotating in and playing in nickel.