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Inside The Tape: Breakdown Of Steelers Versus Browns – Week 17


By Alex Kozora

Week 17 game notes from the Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Cleveland Browns. Obviously, the last installment for the season. Thanks to all who have read my notes throughout the season.

First Half

- Kickoff coverage. From left to right. Cortez Allen, Robert Golden, Shamarko Thomas, Vince Williams, Jarvis Jones, Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, Jonathan Dwyer, Will Allen and William Gay.

New faces on the right side. Chris Carter and Stevenson Sylvester removed and Gay replacing Markus Wheaton at R1. One of the many signs in this game Wheaton was very limited because of his finger. Will touch on a few other examples throughout the notes.

- Would love to see the completion percentage the Steelers have allowed on 3rd down playing Cover 2 man. Figure has to be low. Forced another throwaway on Browns’ first drive.

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- Will Johnson had a big crackback on the ensuing punt return.

- Pass here has three options. Bubble screen at the top, middle screen to the back, and skinny post to Emmanuel Sanders

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Ben Roethlisberger throws it to Sanders, an ill-advised idea to throw the post against a single high safety.

- Nothing fancy on 3rd and 2. Lead Strong, follow your fullback for a first down. Line generates a good push as well.

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- Near touchdown to Jerricho Cotchery where he was unable to get both feet inbounds. Taking advantage of the CB peeking in the backfield. Why? Aligning the dangerous Antonio Brown in the backfield and releasing him into the flat. Corner guesses the throw is heading to him and Cotchery runs by on the nine route. Good design and read.

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- Vince Williams taking a good angle to the lead blocker. Attacks the outside shoulder, forcing Edwin Baker inside to the flow for a modest gain.

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- Next play, Williams tries to shoot through on run blitz but shoved and turned by Alex Mack. Big hole up the middle. As Matthew Marczi said in his evaluation of Al Woods, it’s hard to know for sure who was at fault here but somebody did not properly fill their run game. Either on Williams or Lawrence Timmons.

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- Speaking of Woods, disappointing with Troy Polamalu blowing up this run, knocking over the pulling guard and creating havoc in the backfield, that Woods was not quick enough to make the tackle on Baker. Nearly unblocked but can’t bring the back down.

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- On the bright side, he shows a strong punch here. Definitely doesn’t lack strength.

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- Steelers defending the Wildcat. Jones has the back, Williams scrapes over the top and tackles the QB who keeps.

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- Brett Keisel simply walking the LG back on his forced fumble. Hands inside, shows leg drive, then sheds and strips Jason Campbell. Had a great (likely) final game with the Black and Gold.

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- Ben stared Cotchery down on the INT. Never saw the weakside linebacker dropping right into the path of the throw.

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- I too thought Steve McClendon has done a fine job against the run but obvious miscommunication on the Browns part. Triple-team the nose tackle and Keisel comes in free with the TFL. Their left guard had a rough first quarter.

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- McClendon shedding Alex Mack and making the tackle.

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- Cortez and Shark were the jammers.

- When I’ve talked about the team needing to get to the second level and get a hat on the linebackers, this is what I mean. Power O with Ramon Foster pulling. But Marcus Gilbert is the focus. Chips Athya Rubin then sticks to D’Qwell Jackson, sealing him. Well done.

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- Also ran Power O with David DeCastro pulling multiple times in the game, especially the second quarter.

- Le’Veon Bell TD. Great job to make Billy Winn miss in the backfield. Looks to be the fault of Marcus Gilbert who forgot zone blocking rules. With he and DeCastro covered, Gilbert is solo vs the end. Can’t expect a double-team and help to the inside.

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- Maybe if it was somebody other than Greg Little open, Jason Campbell would have hit him down the seam instead of throwing the corner to Josh Gordon. Ryan Clark bit on playaction and it’s not going to be a play Cortez Allen is likely to make with so much room to the inside.

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- Mike Tomlin running out to congratulate Timmons for snuffing out a screen.

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- Did not notice this during the game. Gay with a snap at safety on 3rd and 21. Had another in the 4th quarter. If any cornerback is moving to safety (and any conversion seems unlikely), it’ll be Gay. Not Ike Taylor.

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- Browns’ safety opening his hips up too late. AB beats the corner and safety but Ben underthrows him and the pass falls incomplete.

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Second Half

- Shamarko Thomas replacing Markus Wheaton at gunner. Blake the other, as usual.

- Snap here a bit low and slightly bobbled by Mat McBriar. Does get it away but only a 42 yarder.

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- Cameron Heyward schooling Oniel Cousins, the backup right guard. Shows leverage, strength, and pass rushing ability.

First punch/leverages the guard, putting himself in control.

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Then swims/sheds and pressures.

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The 4th and 3 failed Cleveland conversion. Two players to check out, Heyward and Jarvis Jones. Heyward with a first punch that knocks the RG back. Then he sheds Mack and creates pressure, forcing the throw to skip.

As for Jones, good effort knocking Joe Thomas’ hands away. But is too high coming around the edge and pushed upfield.

- Have seen it less the second half of the year but Todd Haley’s third down staple. Mesh route with Brown and Cotchery. First down.

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- Another rub route that has been more common the last few weeks. Basic slant/flat to open up Brown underneath.

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- Ben did a good job throwing Cotchery open on his near TD/injury.

- Carter saw action on kickoffs in the second half, replacing Williams.

- Cortez Allen has to secure the interception. In the end zone, right in his hands, has to make a “splash play”. Read the QB/route the whole way, just didn’t finish.

- Still don’t understand why the Browns would go for it on 4th and 6 down 17-0. Field goal or touchdown, you’re down by three possessions. Take the points.

- Ben should not have thrown the go route to Derek Moye on his second INT. Again, single high and Moye with a tight split. No room to make that throw.

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- Same play. No need for Le’Veon Bell to try and cut the linebacker. Stay on your feet.

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- Inside zone to the “B” gap that Jonathan Dwyer immediately, inexplicably, bounds to the outside. Still has awful vision and will never be anything more than a short yardage back.

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- You can see Wheaton shaking his hand here attempting to block Jabaal Sheard at the top of the screen. Then reaches for his glove after the play. Clearly playing in considerable pain and the reason why Moye got playing time ahead of him.

- Jamaal Westerman saw time on kickoffs late in the game. Lined up at L5.

- Gotta love Dick LeBeau’s stunts. Still showing crazy looks late in the 4th in Week 17.

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- Fozzy Whittaker touchdown. Man coverage, back releases late. Most of the routes away from the throw.

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- New faces on the onside kicking team. Moye, Wheaton, Gay, Brown, Troy, and Matt Spaeth.

- Last series. Steelers again stacked OLBs and DEs. Did it to each side. Shown the look occasionally throughout the year.

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- Appeared the gameplan was for the team to use Stevenson Sylvester on first and second down and Chris Carter on third down/obvious passing situations.

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  • 20Stoney

    One of the best things I did this year was find Alex Kozora on twitter during the games. While everybody else is tweeting and retweeting the exact same stuff, he’s seeing things that nobody else does. The guy does really good work.

  • Virdin Barzey

    Not sure how you fix the lack of vision by Dwyer. Just awful. The hole is huge and yet he bounces it outside. Same thing with Mendy when he was here. These guys must not be looking for the whole and already determine where they are going to go regardless. We have got to keep Bell healthy…..all season long since the drop off is huge.

  • Ben Hardy

    Being a high school and middle school football coach this type of information is what I love reading about and looking at. Thanks Alex. Good work.

  • Alex Kozora

    Thanks guys. Much appreciated. Virdin, I don’t think it can be fixed. Like I said, either we’ll keep him as a niche back to be used on short yardage/special teams player as a best case scenario.

  • Ahmad

    On the screen to sanders, I noticed Dwyer was open on the middle screen option with at least 3 blockers in front of him and maybe 2 Browns in the vicinity. I think he didn’t get the screen because Ben obviously was gonna throw to Sanders as he was looking at him as soon as he snapped the ball. That and the fact that Dwyer wasn’t able to knock down the blitzing LB either.

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