Steelers S Troy Polamalu Spent His Time In London Inside A Box

As usual, one of the main goals that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense had going into the Sunday game against the Minnesota Vikings was to stop the run and to do so they were forced to use safety Troy Polamalu either inside the box or within 5-7 yards from the line of scrimmage on 48 of the 52 defensive snaps. That run stop commitment did not work that well, however, as Vikings running back Adrian Peterson still managed to run for 140 yards in the game on 23 carries.

In addition to not being able to stop the run with eight men in the box, having Polamalu that close to the line of scrimmage most of the time meant the defense was forced to play the cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage in either a cover-1 or cover-3 look not only on first and second downs, but a lot of third downs as well. This in turn gave Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel the opportunity to complete a lot of short passes and generally kept him away from facing a lot of third and long situations.

When the Vikings offense was faced with third down and five yards or more to go in the game, the Steelers defense got off the field five out six times. It would have been all six times had they recovered the fumble that linebacker LaMarr Woodley caused on his sack of Cassel.

On the flip-side, however, when the Vikings offense faced third downs with less than five yards to go, they converted four times out of five opportunities with one of those being the 70 yard touchdown by wide receiver Greg Jennings.

The Vikings ran 24 total first down plays in the game and averaged 7.5 yards on them. If you discard the 60 yard touchdown run by Peterson and the late kneel down by Cassel, they still allowed and average of 5.55 yards on the 22 other first down plays and that is what kept the defense behind the chains all game and Polamalu near the line of scrimmage.

To better illustrate this, the Steelers were only able to use their sub package defense in the game 19% of the time. That resulted in rookie linebacker Vince Williams having to play 43 out of 52 plays.

Until the Steelers defense can get back to stopping the run successfully on first down without having to commit Polamalu so many times to the box, they will more than likely continue to have the problems that they had Sunday. These problems become even bigger when they fail to tackle well like they did in London.

Polamalu can’t make plays in the secondary when he’s boxed up and that’s exactly what he was Sunday against the Vikings.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Sounds scary to me. Dave did you see it to be just missed tackles or poor DL play or poor OLB play or a mixture of all?

  • Virdin Barzey

    Haven’t heard anyone say it but its clear that there is a talent deficiency on this team. You can’t fix that overnight so the struggle will continue. We build from the draft and unfortunately had too many draft bust over the years when we were winning.

    There is enough blame to go around but it doesn’t matter what scheme or coaching you do in this NFL if the talent is not there its going to be much harder to win games. The bigger problem is that there is no quick replacement for the guys who are starting.

    Colbert and Tomlin seem to have whiffed on the draft more than the defense does on the field. Guess 8-8 wasn’t so bad last year. We will be luck to get to that record.

  • Pete

    Great observations Dave. A good deal of stopping the run comes down to the front 3. Either they were unable to do their jobs well in occupying blockers and/or the Vikings were good at creating holes and holding their blocks long enough for the RB. We were spoiled with Hampton and his ability to clog the center of the field. Now we are seeing what life is like without him. Also, Harrison was one of the top 3-4 OLB against the run. Net yards rushing by Steelers opponents this season: 111, 127, 107, 145. Not looking good for the rest of the season.

  • HopalongCassidy

    I hate to say it but the D doesn’t have the talent to play a 3-4 at this point. A 4-3 would better suit this team’s personnel. The Steelers will never change though.

  • Fire.Mike.Tomlin

    Heyward – McClendon-Hood-Clowney
    Woodley – Jones – Timmons
    ?? Troy Sharknado ??
    Could be interesting…. gotta make sure to lose out though….

  • Pete

    The problem is how do you replace guys like Hampton, Aaron Smith, James Harrison, Hines Ward, James Farrior, even Chris Hoke. Smith and Harrison were not high draft picks but they became all-pro. The team had virtually no drop off with Hoke in there. The team had a core of all stars and they will be very difficult to replace. Take a look at the top 10 draft picks each year and see how many are still in the league, how many are busts. A lot. It’s super hard to get drafts right. The Steelers are more right than wrong. But still, the very best guys are really hard to replace.

    Think we have it bad now? Wait until Polamalu retires and Ike retires. Ike will be easier to replace but you have to go back to Carnell Lake and Rod Woodson to find DB of the quality of Polamalu. These guys don’t grow on trees.

  • Mike Carroll

    It has become obvious the team is losing the battle on BOTH lines of scrimmage, and a lot of times they are being dominated. When you’ve invested many recent top picks to both areas, and neither one is a strength, it’s no wonder the team is struggling mightily. I know others want a CB and WR high next year, but NT needs to be a priority as well. McLendon could always be moved to end, once they let Hood walk.

  • charles

    The lack of talent is why LeBeau runs all these novel defenses. Look closely and you will see that Colbert cannot judge linemen, offensively or defensively. Personally, I think Colbert is pulling Mike Tomlin’s strings. These players are not playing to what I thought was Tomlin’s character. Tomlin’s questionable mngmnt decisions have the appearance of Tomlin trying to think of what those in the FO want. There is no need to mention anyone higher than Colbert as having TOO much influence on the team. (And dont compare us to the Cowboys)

  • treeher

    Hadn’t considered that, but I think I agree with you.

  • treeher

    We’re missing Foote more than I thought we would. Hood, I can’t figure out. You look at him and understand he is probably the strongest player on the field, but he just gets handled. Doesn’t seem to have absorbed any knowledge from experience or coaching. Only defense in the league without a turnover. Amazing. I thought I’d be screaming about the offense, but they’ve scored enough points last two games to have won if the D did ANYthing.

  • Pete

    Yes, we might conclude lack of talent from draft position but sometimes you hit it and sometimes you don’t. DeCastro and Adams were taken at 24 and 56. Hood was taken at 32. Heyward and Gilbert, 31 and 63. When the Steelers draft higher, they took guys like Pouncey at 18, Timmons at 15, Polamalu was 16 and Roethlisberger at 11.

    Then again, Heath Miller was 30 and Woodley was taken at 46. Harrison and Fast Willie Parker were undrafted. Just saying it’s tough to predict who will develop into a star at draft time.

  • steeltown

    Very true…NT or LT would be nice additions, but lets not forget that we lost Harrison and Foote and are now starting two rookies (Jones and V.Williams) and a NT that has basically never been a starter prior to this season

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Hood’s got short arms and questionable hands (specifically hand placement). I agree with you I cant figure him out either. I just concede to the fact that the Steelers drafted a 4-3 DT to play 3-4 DE and expected it to turn out well. That being said I am excited though to see Arnfelt and N. Williams in action someday…next season, good grief.

  • Bob Graff

    Clowney , please have you watched him play this year.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Poor DL play has killed us in the running game. Hood is not getting it done and not sure why we don’t just start Heyward there.

  • Douglas Andrews

    He’s taking this year off…It’s the Mike Wallet Wallace syndrome. Seriously he’s obviously playing or not trying to get hurt. Doesn’t want to hurt that top 5 draft stock.

  • Douglas Andrews

    True!..good point.

  • MC

    I’d like to see Cam Heyward rotated in more. I think if Ziggy isn’t pulling his weight he needs to be subbed off for Cam. Cam just has more splash play potential than Ziggy and i’ve always thought he would take Ziggy’s spot eventually as he just seems more of a football player than hood. Kiesel isn’t slowing down so I can see him back next year.

    I also believe with Troy playing in the box has led to less turnovers. We haven’t been able to see the gambling ball hawk Troy since he is playing more like a linebacker. Granted he does a good job when he’s down there but it would be good to let him freelance a lil more. And in regards to turnovers, i’ve watched heaps of teams especially in college teaching strip techniques when making tackles, I have a feeling the steelers aren’t dedicating enough time to that type of training.

  • charles

    You know Pete, I agree with the blind pinata at draft day. However, given that DeCastro is possibly(?) going to be good and Ben said the line had gotten better since the ‘signing of the new center’ Colbert is batting 0’s for the last 7 years and clearly our line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball MAY BE THE WORST IN THE LEAGUE right now. That is where the game is won or lost for the most part.
    I would like to say that Haley may be the future of the Steelers. Most of his player personel decisions have been stellar both in Pitsburgh and elsewhere. Just like his ol man.