Steelers Film Room: Slant Flat In Red Zone

By Alex Kozora

Throughout the rest of the offseason, we’ll examine specific plays from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 season. We won’t be focusing so much on individual play, though that inevitably comes with any breakdown, but instead, we will focus on concepts used in the pro game to show not just what happened, but why it happened.

This will be an X’s and O’s series focusing on both sides of the ball. The good and bad of the Steelers of last season.

A look at the route concept used that led to a touchdown on the Steelers’ final drive against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13.

Personnel: Posse (1 RB, 1 TE)

Route: Slant/Flat

Defense: Nickel

Coverage: Cover Zero

Result: Jerricho Cotchery TD

Most fans remember the play after this touchdown. An Emmanuel Sanders drop in the corner of the end zone, failing to complete the two-point conversion and securing the victory for the Ravens.

But instead of focusing on that play, we’ll look at the play that created that opportunity. 4th and one for the Steelers on the Ravens one yard line. 1:06 to go in the game, Pittsburgh trailing by eight.

The Steelers line up in 11 personnel with two receivers to the wide side of the field. Ten of the 11 Ravens’ defenders are on the LOS.


Before focusing on the route concept, this is a “packaged” play. Packaged plays have a built-in run/pass option. Based on the coverage/look, the quarterback has the choice to hand it off or throw. Even on a pass, the offense carries out its run blocking duties, similar to what happens with their smoke screens we profiled last week.

If you remember, these types of plays have garnered a lot of media attention following Tony Romo’s 4th quarter interception against the Green Bay Packers. It was another example of a packaged play.

In this instance, the run option is Power O to the strong side.


Roethlisberger obviously decides to throw. So let’s focus on the route.

It’s a “slant/flat” combination route between Cotchery and Antonio Brown, lined up in the slot. Cotchery running the slant with Brown to the flat.


It’s one of the most common routes you’ll see inside the twenties. Defenses must be conscious of this against two receiver sides. If they don’t trade the receivers off, cornerbacks have to be lined up at slightly different depths to avoid getting “picked” on the route. The Ravens fail to adhere to this.


The Ravens hand the Steelers the touchdown. The corners miscommunicate and both cover Brown on the flat. Often times to avoid that rub, the cornerbacks will have a “banjo” call, letting them pass the receiver off to the other cornerback. Essentially, a matchup zone instead of true man coverage. Nickel corner Lardarius Webb ostensibly misses his assignment, failing to pass Brown off and picking up Cotchery on the slant. It’s pitch and catch at this point.



The same play was used – run option and all – on the two-point conversion attempt. And again, the Ravens fail to correctly pass it off. Only this time, Antonio Brown is open on the flat. Had Ben looked that way, it would’ve been another easy conversion and tied the game. Easy to say that now, sure, but that frustrated me more than the “drop” by Sanders.


This is one of the reasons why the Steelers don’t need a tall wide receiver in the red zone. It obviously can be an advantage, but there are plenty of red zone concepts that can create separation.

When you’re open, it doesn’t matter how tall you are.

Previous Film Room Sessions

Putting Pressure On Rookies

Facing The 46 Defense

Fake Wide Receiver Screen

The Steve McLendon Myth

Cover 2 Man

The Wildcat

Cover 1 And Forced Throws

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • steeltown

    Nice breakdown.

    Man I think we all remember that game and that drive well. If Sanders had made the catch and conversion I think he’d receive a little less grief from fans. He would still be playing in another uni this year though.

  • shawn

    Like Haley Said …. WE NEEDED A TALL WR … there is no better Mismatch than Size n Speed … and now we have both !!

  • Ahmad

    Now imagine if we had a tall WR running that fade instead of Sanders. Bet money that play would have turned out differently.

  • mem359

    On both the TD and the conversion, Ben had a defender in his face. He had to pick a side and throw right away. If the line can get him an extra half second this year, that would give him more options.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    That is the point I think was missed. After the game Ben said he through it to Sanders because Sanders was being covered by their #3 CB. Not because of Sanders’ skill. But because the mismatch favored him.

    The problem is, Sanders can’t really fight through contact very well and his catch radius is very small. So in that scenario, all defender has to do is get grabby and physical and that particular WR is neutralized.

    If you have a guy like Kelvin Benjamin against a #3 CB you don’t throw it AT the receiver you throw it ABOVE the receiver. He goes up and gets it. You can’t defend it with contact from below (or it draws a PI).

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    That is true. But also remember (in that same scenario if you have a guy like Ebron or Benjamin or Evans) Ben can just throw the ball up for grabs immediately (before the pass rush gets there) and it’s highly likely that our receiver comes down with the ball or draws PI.

    If you have to wait for a smaller receiver to “get open” the result is a sack. Ben understands that. Which is why he’s been begging for a tall WR for like the last 8 years. That is why our red zone passing TD % is so low for the last 8 years.

    Hopefully Martavis Bryant (or even Brown/Moye) can prove effective in that capacity. Heath is not really that guy. And never has been. He’s best at finding soft spots, not battling through contact.

  • mem359

    Alex mentioned that if Ben looked to his right on the conversion, he would have had an easier pass. It seemed like Ben didn’t have time to do more than pick a side (left or right) and hope to find an opportunity.

  • steeltown

    Sanders should have made the catch, period. It wasn’t the easiest catch he had to adjust but it hit him right in the hands.

  • cencalsteeler

    Off subject, but is Quenton Groves an upgrade over Chris Carter? If so, will we see the Steelers reach out? Olb depth.

  • steeltown

    Interesting thought… I’d kick the tires

  • cencalsteeler

    Plus, a special teams captain. That says something, no?

  • steeltown

    Watch the Ravens scoop him up

  • Matt Manzo

    I think he’s better than Carter! But I’m not sure the FO will make the move?

  • Matt Manzo

    You make me smarter!