Breaking Down The Back Breaking Run By Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas

The play that really did the Pittsburgh Steelers in on Sunday in their loss to the Miami Dolphins was the 55 yard run by running back Daniel Thomas on 2nd and 1 with 3:59 remaining in regulation. The blame for the big run goes squarely on the shoulders of linebacker LaMarr Woodley and safety Troy Polamalu, who you can pretty much call an inside linebacker these days.

As the animated gifs show you, this is the old power ride stretch play. At the snap, Woodley allows himself to get hooked by Dolphins tight end/h-back/fullback/pilot/MC Charles Clay. Even though safety Will Allen gets buried by the pulling left guard in a mismatch, at least he takes on the block and keeps Thomas inside of him. It doesn’t look pretty, but you have to commend him for taking the punishment.

As far as Polamalu goes, he too is mismatched against pulling center Mike Pouncey, but he has to get over the top of him and across his face in order to force Thomas inside to down-the-line pursuit. The inability of Woodley and Polamalu to do their jobs results in both interfering with defensive end Cameron Heyward being able to make a play.

While we are at it, cornerback Ike Taylor is also slow to get off of the stalk block of wide receiver Brian Hartline and all he can do is stick out one arm on Thomas as blows right up the open lane.

This is what happens when you have players playing outside of their normal position. Woodley over the years has been pretty solid at setting the edge at his usual left outside linebacker spot, but he failed miserably on this play when lined up on the opposite side. As for Polamalu, he’s a safety, not a linebacker.

I’m willing to bet you see other teams try this play, or some variation of it, over the course of the remaining thrree games. The Dolphins ran it out of a hurry-up offense and against a defense that was spread out and not loaded up in the box. It was a great play call and it essentially won the game.

  • Rick M

    Other than Jason Worilds a way over on the other side of the field and Cam Heyward who slides off his block to chase, every Steelers’ player gets dominated by their respective Miami blocker on this rather basic play. We’re talking veteran players being pummelled at a critical time in the game on their home field. No wonder the defence has given up so many big plays this year.

    This play has nothing to do with poor coaching. Terrible execution and/or effort by multiple Steelers’ veteran players from start to finish.

  • dgh57

    We seem to have a tendency to let (below)average players such as Pryor and Cassel look like top tier QBs, now a backup RB gashes us for over a 100 yards and a 6.6 yard avg. We for sure gotta go defense in the 1st couple of rounds of this upcoming draft!

  • steeltown

    I agree, too many people out of position or not playing their natural position.

    What the hell was Taylor doing? He back peddles and then runs right at Hartline

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m glad you pointed that out. I shake my head at those plays, because they happen more than you think. That type of effort is why we have a losing record. It’s embarrassing and I guarantee you Hartline laughed about it amongst his friends and teammates while they were in their Monday film session. I just don’t see how the Steelers coaches blow this off as regularly as they do. Tomlins presser saying he sees nothing wrong with Clarks tackling technique is mind blowing as well. This season has me shaking my head more than twirling my towel.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Yes. Woodley is the first one to get contained and the biggest culprit. Noticed how everyone on the line shifted to the play but Woodley did not. He seems to be playing the man and not the actual play so he is going up the field while the play is going around him. If he gets off the block and shift, Pola can make the play rather than expecting Pola to get pass Pouncey who make a great block.

    Guess this is part of the issue of putting Woodley on the other side.

  • cencalsteeler

    Another example as to why Troy should not be at the linebacker position. He is easily taken out of the play by the pulling guard. He continually gets caught in the wash and is nonexistent while playing the position.

  • RMSteeler

    If they’re going to play Troy as an inside LB, he shouldn’t be playing so deep in the box. Better to use his safety instincts from 4 yds off the line, so at least he has a chance to make a play. When he is targeted and engaged by big OL players, it’s like playing with 10 on defense. When playing so close to the line, I don’t think he can read his keys, because he’s gambling too much on a preset play attempt by him. Not a high percentage impact while doing that.