By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers changed protocol in their game plan last week more than usual in order to combat the Detroit Lions. In part, they used the no huddle and quick-release passes as a way to counteract Detroit’s defensive front of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
As a result, the Steelers’ offensive line had their cleanest game of the season in pass protection. Kelvin Beachum in particular had a representative game at left tackle, although his primary competitor was a fourth-round rookie, rather than Ziggy Ansah.
Though he did give up three pressures, Marcus Gilbert also had a nice game in pass protection at right tackle (and I might add a better day in the running game that Beachum).
To that end, let’s take a look at the pressures that he ended up surrendering to see what went wrong on an otherwise clean afternoon.
This one is fairly easy to see. To begin with, he was cautiously lending support to Heath Miller on a block on the defensive end while eyeballing a potential blitzer. As he released the defensive end to pick up the blitzer, he realized that Miller was releasing as well, and as he looked back at the lineman, it was too late to pick up the blitz.
Evidently there was a miscommunication between Gilbert and Miller. Likely, Gilbert didn’t realize that Miller was going to release into a route (which ended up working out, since Ben Roethlisberger tossed him the ball as he was able to get hit and ended up with a 10-yard gain for his troubles).
Here is how the drive that began with the play above culminated. Mind you, this is just one play after the Steelers should have scored a touchdown. As it was, however, Gilbert and David DeCastro surrendering pressure forced a throwaway that resulted in settling for a field goal.
This was a big moment in the game. The Lions were obviously also aware of that, considering they saw it fit to line up Suh on the outside over Gilbert on a third and nine situation with the Steelers deep in their own end following a turnover.
Suh got a good jump off the ball, burying his shoulder into Gilbert’s midsection and getting him moving backward. Gilbert was never able to fully recover, doing the reverse bunny hop back into Roethlisberger’s lap.
Considering the early duress he was under though, I would say that he recovered reasonably well to at least stick with the play, which just barely gave Roethlisberger enough room to get enough zip on the pass to get the chains moving.