Fernando Velasco Overmatched By Bills Interior Against The Pass

By Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, banged up as it is, had a tough time dealing with the stout front seven of the Buffalo Bills, particularly the front line that includes Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.

Center Fernando Velasco probably got the worst of it, often being asked to take on Dareus, who got the better of him—and others—on numerous occasions throughout the game..

The battle between Velasco and Dareus began early with the Steelers offense taking the field first, and Dareus, frankly, won most of the skirmishes. That is certainly the case on this early first quarter passing play.

Asked to block him one-on-one, Velasco quickly got duped by Dareus, who first swam over his left shoulder, and then over his right, tossing him aside as he tried to hold on.

As a result, Ben Roethlisberger was flushed out of the pocket and forced to throw the ball away. Velasco got a break on this play, however, because Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was flagged for defensive holding on Antonio Brown, giving the Steelers five yards and an automatic first down.

Later, midway through the third quarter, Dareus beat Velasco again in pass protection. He got his hand on Velasco’s shoulder and prevented the center from getting inside his chest, and thus was able to get to the outside and run past him to force another pressure, and yet another throwaway, this time with no penalty.

Near the end of the third quarter, Velasco was tasked with keeping Williams out of the backfield on a screen pass to Heath Miller. He was not asked to stop him, but merely to slow him down, as screens are designed to do.

He let Williams by too easily though, pressuring Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball more quickly than he intended. Miller was still engaged with Mario Williams and not ready to receive the ball either. Combined with the rushed throw and ill-prepared receiver, the play was doomed to fail.

Now, Velasco was not beaten on every snap. In fact, he threw some nice blocks throughout the game. But he was clearly overmatched in this game by the Bills’ defensive tackles, and it limited the offense both on the ground and, as shown above, in the air. Though he didn’t give up any sacks, Velasco allowed two other pressures in addition to the ones above for his worst game yet as a Steeler.

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

    I really like Velasco and this will probably sound bias because of it but Kyle Williams is a pro bowler and Marcel Dareus was a 3rd overall pick back in 2011.. I’ll give Velasco a pass he still did an admirable job.

  • JAMESH

    True. It just looks in those GIFs like maybe Whimper has been giving him helpful tips.

  • JAMESH

    Watch Adams in the second GIF. Is that improved technique in pass protection?

  • steeltown

    That was nice

  • NCSteel

    We’ll said Steeltown. Velasco has been great

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Against those 2 bulldozers, he was admirable. Really good warm-up for the Lions duo Suh and Fairley. They better have a good game plan this week.

  • CrazyTerry

    You would think Whimper could at least help with a chip block before going down the field to block.

  • Steeler50

    In the first two Foster and Whimper are focusing on helping out Beechum because he’s the weak sister. In a normal environment they would be looking inside and outside to determine if they need to support the center or the tackle. In this case…. they left Velasco on an island and focused only on helping the tackle. It is very hard for a center to snap the ball then handle the pass rush one on one and not something other teams rely on.

  • dgh57

    This is where we suffer more than just physically when Whimper is in there as Foster has the smarts to help out on that play.

  • Lamarr56

    Hopefully he can hold his own against Fairley and Suh. I live in Michigan and I have watched most of the Lions games, and those two have been impressive as he’ll.

  • r4kolb

    For all those whack jobs who say Ben always tries to extend plays and doesn’t want to take the short stuff, watch these gifs. This is what this poor guy has had to deal with, people in his face within 3 seconds or less. That is why he has no choice but to leave the pocket.

  • Matthew Marczi

    If you want my honest opinion, I haven’t been impressed with Velasco this season. He had a couple bad games in pass protection (Oakland, Chicago if I recall correctly), but he has been a liability in the running game all season. I believe people are giving him a break because he was an in-season signing and was a ‘free agent’ who started 16 games last year. Was it great that the Steelers were still able to sign him after the season started? Yes. But if he was the starting center all along, I don’t think he would get so much slack. Plus, aside from bad snaps, it’s harder to notice bad play at center than at guard and tackle.

    To be fair, though, the Steelers should have spent less time worrying about doubling Mario Williams and more time protecting the inside.

  • steeltown

    Very true, a lot of the reason why I like him is because he stepped right in when we were in desperate need of help at the position

  • Mike.H

    oxford apostrophe. [ google oxford comma for similar meaning]

  • Matthew Marczi

    Oh yeah, even if he hasn’t been a Pro Bowler at times, there’s no doubt he stabilized the offensive line in a big way, and he seems like a good guy and a leader.

  • dgh57

    I’ve already seen posters on this site(not so much lately) that are/were ready for us to move Pouncey to LG next year and make Velasko(if resigned) our starting Center. Don’t see that happening myself!

  • Matthew Marczi

    It doesn’t help that Pouncey didn’t look all that great at guard when they moved him there last year either. Velasco can play guard too, but is he better than Foster? I don’t think so. Plus they still have two more years on Foster’s contract. Now, if they can keep Velasco around as the interior game day back up, that would be great.

  • dgh57

    Yes, I think it was in that Ravens game last year where Colon got hurt so they moved Pouncey to LG and made Legursky the Center because he himself wasn’t that good at Guard. Perfect example of why a good quality versatile backup is important! I remember it being reported that Pouncey didn’t fair so well in that game. Then along comes Velasko and he plays pretty good his 1st few games then all the sudden the talk of Pouncey to LG started. Some seem to forget that consistency is always part of the equation. Just hope we resign Velasko because he’s needed!

  • Dan

    Generally speaking at least one or two of our o-linemen hold their block on each offensive snap. In this rare case it happened to be Adams.

  • charles

    You could say the exact same thing about Pouncey. The Steelers line looked early this season to be less porous than last. That starts with the center.

  • Matthew Marczi

    While I agree with your implication that Pouncey is somewhat overrated by most, I don’t agree that the line was more porous last season. I know it’s not an exact measure, but Roethlisberger is on the worst pace of his career in terms of being sacked this year, while last year was one of his best before he was injured.

  • Chad H

    These linemen not named DeCastro all looked like duds on these plays. Wow we need help! Hang in there Ben only half the season to go.

  • JAMESH

    I foresee Velasco playing the Doug Legursky role next year only better.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Watch Decastro, he is gunna be great i know it

  • charles

    It was Ben’s statement after Velasco’s first game at center that ‘the line had gotten better’. Porosity on the line this year can be directed at left tackle and Adams horrid start. However, i am glad that Haley is sticking with Adams as quasi tight end and the pancake block on Bell’s td last week was great to watch. Maybe like Dwyer, benching him may have awoken a sleeping giant. Let’s hope so.

  • steeltown

    Would love to keep him as the interior backup to Pouncey, DeCastro and Foster