By Alex Kozora
The weekly breakdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders.
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– Starting kick coverage in no particular order. Terence Garvin, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Will Johnson, Stevenson Sylvester, Jarvis Jones, Will Allen, Antwon Blake, Cortez Allen, and William Gay.
– On kick returns. Garvin, Vince Williams, Blake, Thomas, Sly as the front five. Like clockwork, David Paulson/Michael Palmer as the next two, Al Woods/Cam Heyward at wedge, and Jonathan Dwyer/Felix Jones as upback/kick returner.
– Mike Adams running a drag route? Mike Adams running a drag route.
– Early in the game, Raiders run T/E stunts to each side. Neither gets picked up. Just like how the Steelers great offensive line play vs Baltimore set the tempo, this shoddy play was a bad omen against Oakland.
– Blake/Thomas your gunners. Golden the upback. Others: Garvin, Jason Worilds, Palmer, Johnson, Sly, Palmer.
– Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor the starting jammers.
– Don’t have an issue with the WR/bubble screen in general but don’t like running it when it’s 2v1 at the top with Oakland in man. Can tell it’s man by pre-snap motion of Heath with the DB following. Little chance for the WR to win the battle.
– Raiders running dual slants on 3rd and 10 to open up Denarius Moore,, who fakes outside stem and works inside.
– Darren McFadden’s first TD run. Flow to the right. Ryan Clark on contain, Worilds crashing. Vince Williams might be asked to scrape here and be responsible for the backside “C” gap (where DMC cuts back to) but over pursues and gets caught up in the wash.
– Good block by Fernando Velasco in space to spring Le’Veon Bell. Nick Roach not fooled by the fake WR screen so nice job by Velasco to get out into space.
– Zoltan Mesko’s next punt after the block. Maybe it’s nitpicking or asking too much but both gunners and rest of the coverage unit stop short of the ball as it bounces roughly five yards in front and into the end zone. Could have had a chance to down it. Perhaps punt returner Jacoby Ford fooled them by running away from the ball and still looking up – tough to say.
– Pressure on Troy Polamalu interception came from the Raiders’ left tackle not knowing the snap count and standing still off the ball. Jarvis Jones is one-on-one with the back.
– Defenses will be aware of the rub play that was used against Baltimore (Antonio Brown’s catch) to put the Steelers in field goal range. Same distance, same play. Raiders pass it off well, just can’t execute and drive on the slant.
But the tendency from Todd Haley is pretty clear. Something to monitor in future weeks.
– Isaiah Green saw time on kick coverage, working as R5. Also got time as a gunner in the second half.
– Al Woods first defensive snap. Got under the pads of center Stefen Wisniewski, pushing him back to help blow the run up.
– Ramon Foster’s last snap came on the first play of the second quarter. Went back and looked but no obvious signs of a concussion earlier in the drive. Obviously doesn’t mean he didn’t suffer one, though.
– Example of Lawrence Timmons being truthful in saying the ILB was asked to scrape at times vs the read option. Vince Williams doing it.
And Timmons himself doing it in the second half. Missed the tackle on Terrelle Pryor here, too.
– Steve McClendon shedding the LG, making a diving tackle on the back. Heck of an athlete for a nose tackle.
– Scramble drill for Pryor, Steelers with good coverage. LaMarr Woodley shouldn’t be running outside the tackle, should be playing inside/out and forcing Pryor to the edge. Doesn’t, takes himself out of the play, and the Raiders’ quarterback runs for six.
– I would have preferred to just kick a FG than running a play at the end of the second half but for those disgruntled with the decision to hit Felix Jones in the flats, there wasn’t anything else available and not much time to wait for something to develop.
– For as critical of Jonathan Dwyer as I’ve been, he’s been running hard on the few carries he’s received the last couple games.
– Guy Whimper’s injury.
– As I’ve said ad nauseam all year, the games where the Steelers’ run game struggles is the ones where the line can’t get to the second level. Issue is magnified vs 4-3 teams. One example here. Can’t get to the edge, create an explosive play and it limits your running game. LB always has the edge.
– Key cut block by Will Johnson on Antonio Brown end around.
– Cody Wallace’s face gets crossed, can’t allow that on a draw. Keep the tackle to the outside, push him upfield. Big loss on the play.
– David DeCastro’s injury occurs on the following play. Crackback by Jerricho Cotchery and the Raiders’ defender flies into DeCastro’s leg.
– 3rd and 9, Cover 2 shell (Cover 1 pre-snap). Ike in trail position (play to inside hip of WR) because of the help over the top. Able to break up the curl route, receiver doesn’t get an inch of separation.
Astute quarterbacks will realize the two deep shell even with the single high. Steelers won’t play tight coverage on third and long without help over the top. So that means there has to be help over the top, a two deep shell.
– Later, another bubble screen. Miller motioned to the playside, no one goes with him (zone), 2 v 2 blocking. Gain of five on first and ten.
– 3rd and 8 from Oakland 2. Slant/flat combo for a first down.
– Kelvin Beachum getting head-slapped (yes, illegal) by Daniel Muir on Ben INT.
– Ben’s play on the Emmanuel Sanders’ TD was a thing of beauty. Of course, could have been prevented if the line would’ve picked up another simple stunt.
– Obviously one of the thing Pryor still needs to work on is dealing with pressure. Drops his eye level as soon as he feels the rush looking to take off. Excellent athlete but as awkward as they come mechanically.
– LaMarr Houston knocking Adams back with just one arm.
– Adams again upright. Terrible at winning leverage war. Really don’t know how much hope I have left for him.
– Raiders send six vs five block. Where is the WR separation with one on one matchups? Who is winning their battle? Where is the spacing schematically?
– On the whole, the receivers did not get enough separation. Players not winning their one on one matchups and Haley probably passed too much out of Heavy sets. I never want to see Mike Adams run a route again.
– Lot of discussion about it but I agree that Woodley played a good game. Beat Matt McCants multiple times on a variety of ways (bull, dip). Pryor just tough to bring down. Plus, Oakland threw it just 19 times and in multiple instances, would roll Pryor out. Tough to get to him.
– Importance of being multiple defensively. One week after using subpackages on 51/67 plays, used it just 15 of 60 times vs Oakland. In base defense 43 times. Have to have players that can fit both schemes and the Steelers have that with Vince Williams and Shamarko Thomas.
– Jason Worilds hasn’t been much better at generating pressure than Jarvis Jones. Only time either one of them wins is in obvious mismatches, be it on a poor blocking TE or a running back.