By Matthew Marczi
Yesterday, I wrote a piece exposing some of the lowlights in the performance of Pittsburgh Steelers center Fernando Velasco during the team’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week. They were valid, legitimate flaws or errors in his game, but they were by no means unfixable, nor were they the norm.
In fact, as I wrote previously, Velasco overall has done a good job of stepping into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation, and has helped stabilize what could have been an even more shaky unit following the loss of Maurkice Pouncey. Velasco is capable of executing the plays that I highlighted in which he failed, and to that end, it is worth taking a look at a couple of the plays in which he was successful.
The first play that I looked at in my previous article was an example of Velasco being blown off the ball from the snap, such that he was knocked back into tight end David Johnson, who was pulling on a block. The result was a delay in the development of the blocking scheme of the play, and Le’Veon Bell was lucky to get the yardage that he did on it.
That is not meant to serve as a symbol of his ineffectiveness and lack of power in the trenches, by any means. Not only is Velasco a veteran player, he is also a big guy, and can handle himself well in tight spaces and against large bodies, as the following play illustrates.
Notice that I also used this play to serve as a highlight for Marcus Gilbert; however, Velasco is in reality the prime mover on this play. He starts off on a double team on the defensive tackle with Kelvin Beachum, but when inside linebacker Erin Henderson comes in to fill the gap, Velasco picks him up and blows him out of the hole.
Not only does he blow him out of the hole, he also drills him into the ground by the time the play is over. With Beachum and David DeCastro taking care of their responsibilities, Bell has a sizable cutback lane on this play to make something happen.
The primary focus of my previous article was Velasco’s inability to reach his assignment on the move. In truth, this was Velasco’s worst game of the season in that regard. As Dave wrote when he was first signed, it is something that he is capable of doing, as in this example.
On this play, the Vikings actually have defensive end Jared Allen in coverage, watching for Bell to come out of the backfield—which he does. The only problem is that Velasco is there to nudge him out of the way, allowing Bell to find the open field for a 19-yard gain.
One can argue that Velasco was fortunate to be asked to block Allen on this play instead of Henderson or one of the Vikings’ other speedy and instinctual linebackers, but he did a nice job on this play. Certainly, the Steelers would like to see more of this out of Velasco in the future.