48 Plays That Shaped The Steelers 2013 Season: Week 12 Versus Browns

By Alex Kozora

Before turning out attention to the start of training camp, we’ll revisit 2013 one more time. This is a brand new series that will be recapping each game by highlighting three plays that shaped the final score – and the 2013 season – of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers’ winning streak continues in Week 12 with a 27-11 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Play #1 – 2nd Quarter: Troy Polamalu’s forced fumble

2013 won’t be a memorable year for the Steelers’ defense as a unit but Troy Polamalu quietly had a successful season in less than ideal circumstances. He plays every single snap on defense, one of just 12 players in the NFL to do so. While the interception numbers weren’t gaudy, he set a personal best with five forced fumbles. One of which comes in Week 12.

1:51 remaining in the first half. The Steelers lead 10-3 but the Browns have possession near midfield. On the surface, the box score looks impressive: Polamalu forcing and recovering a fumble of Chris Ogbonnya.

But checking the tape, it’s so much more incredible than that, and really encapsulates the future Hall of Fame player Polamalu is.

He begins the play lined up in his hybrid linebacker role, a position he occupied far more often than anyone would’ve liked. But he had the talent and IQ to do so, a transition few players could pull off.

On the snap, he attempts to run blitz through the strongside “A” gap against a Cleveland run to the weakside “A.” Polamalu is stonewalled by Alex Mack. For most players, that would be the extent of the play. The back would run past and someone else would clean up the mess.

Not Troy. He spins around and starts retreating backwards, not even finding Ogbonnya until they’re nearly face-to-face. He spins around, gets his hips square, strips him, and recovers the fumble in mid-air.

The Browns obviously lose the chance to add points before the half and the Steelers tack on a 32 yard field goal before intermission, pushing their lead to two possessions, 13-3.

Play #2 – 3rd Quarter: William Gay sack/fumble

While the Steelers did struggle to intercept opposing quarterbacks, they did force 14 fumbles, a mark good enough for sixth in the league. They get their second fumble recovery against Cleveland in the third quarter.

One of Dick LeBeau’s classic zone blitzes. Stack Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones to the same side, dropping Jones into a hook zone.


Slant Cameron Heyward down a gap into the left guard while occupying left tackle Joe Thomas. Cat blitz William Gay and Will Allen, forcing the running back to only be able to block one as he slides over. The back chooses Allen, leaving Gay to blitz freely.



Gay blindsides Jason Campbell, knocking the ball out. Allen deftly picks the ball up and nearly scores before being tackled at the four.

By the game’s close, the Steelers would force four Cleveland turnovers, the most they had against any opponent on the year.

Play #3 – Emmanuel Sanders 4 yard touchdown

You don’t have to look far to find our third play. The snap following Allen’s fumble recovery, Ben Roethlisberger hits Emmanuel Sanders on a four yard touchdown pass.

The route concept is simple but effective. Twin wide receiver set and a slant/flat combination, one of the most common route concepts in the red zone. Antonio Brown runs into the flats with Sanders on the slant. Brown’s route rubs corner Buster Skrine, creating enough separation to open up Sanders. Pitch, catch, six.



By this point, Pittsburgh leads 20-3 and are in complete control of the game. The Browns are forced to the air – now with Brandon Weeden filling in for an injured Campbell – and only run the ball four more times the rest of the afternoon. Weeden predictably sputters, completing less than half his passes and throwing a pick six to Gay.

Previous Weeks

Week 1 Titans
Week 2 Bengals
Week 3 Bears
Week 4 Vikings
Week 6 Jets
Week 7 Ravens
Week 8 Raiders
Week 9 Patriots
Week 10 Bills
Week 11 Lions

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.

  • Geoff Cordner

    I am liking this series of reviewed plays, and yes.. its much easier viewing now that we are in the winning streak!

  • dgh57

    More stuff I remember from this game: I think this is the game where Big Ben shows us his expertise as a pooch punter!

    A. Brown gets Joe Haden looking into the backfield for a TD!

    Now the bad as J Gordon torches us for 237 rec. yards on 14 receptions!

    Mike Adams is showing his expertise on his blocking skills in the last gif, LOL!

  • Steve

    In the 1st Gif Jarvis has a clear shot at the runner if he just steps up in the hole. Just goes to show, never give up on the play as Troy does and good things can happen.

  • Madi

    He did step up, but just a hair too late. That’s a good example of something that will make him a better player this year.

  • Madi

    To be fair to Adams, that looked like a called running play with the option to pass. Adams lunged because it was a run block. Heath did the same thing on the opposite side. Both blockers are just trying to lock the defenders outside, and if they get upfield, then that’s fine (unlike a pass play). The defenders realized it was a pass long before the blockers, so they adjusted accordingly and made Adams and Miller look like they don’t know what they’re doing. But had it been a real running play as called, the defenders would have reacted differently, and the blocks wouldn’t have been so terrible looking. They might have even been good.

  • dgh57

    The actions of Ben and Sanders tells me it was a pass from the get go. Watch Sanders immediately turn his head as he breaks to the inside and Ben’s quick release. Even if it was a audible from a run to a pass I would think Sanders would be the last to hear it because of the crowd noise.

  • Madi

    Obviously it was a pass play from the receivers’ standpoint. You didn’t even mention Brown, who basically ran a rub for Sanders’ slant. Point is, the other 8 guys on the team were executing a running play, and Ben had the option to do either. He chose to pass. They probably called two plays in the huddle, but the blockers and back just go with the running play, because there’s no need to pass protect on a pass released that quickly.

  • dgh57

    If there was a run option Bell would of ran to where Ben could of handed him the ball. He new it was a pass as he ran to the backside of Ben. Brown ran a corner route to clear a defender out of the area where Sanders was going
    to be. Ben and Sanders look at each other as soon as the ball is snapped which means Sanders name was called in the huddle and thus a pass play.

  • I noticed that too. That’s a play I’m willing to bet he makes in his second year.

  • Alex Kozora

    It’s a packaged play. Run/pass option with a signal at the line. Marcus Gilbert is not going to be pushing Rubin five yards downfield to the goalline if there isn’t the possibility of the pass.

  • dgh57

    The defender on Gilbert saw how fast the play developed and so he saw no further need in trying to pursue the play so obviously Gilbert gets the 5 yard push. If there was any kind of a run option Bell would of ran the correct route which in turn would of made it a play action play and a longer developing play and Gilbert doesn’t get the push that he gets.

  • steeltown

    Good day for WillieG, a sack, FF and INT for td

  • Alex Kozora

    Well you’re free to think what you want, but I can promise you it’s a packaged play. The low hat of the line gives it away.

  • dgh57

    I would think most plays called are option plays when leaving the huddle. It’s from the snap moving forward is what I’m talking about. The gif doesn’t show how much time was spent at the line. If it was a quick snap and how fast the play developed then the play ran was the play called. Adams could of been in there just to give the play somewhat of a run look to his side which in that sense there was a run option but that was never going to materialize because of the quick pass to Sanders called. Bell didn’t do anything more than he did because he knew it was a pass play.

  • Alex Kozora

    Bell saw Ben dropping back to pass so it alerted him. The line, who could’t have known, tell you what you need to know. It was a run option.

    Also, packaged play is different than an audible to/from a run.

  • Madi

    Uh… how about the running play called for Bell to run to the left, not right, and when Ben went with the pass, he abandoned running to where Bell would have gotten the ball, and instead did his quick drop and quick pass? That’s more likely, right?

  • dgh57

    I would think that Todd Haley would have a few plays in his playbook where he can disguise what is actually going on. LeBeau does it quite often with his blitzes. Haley could just as well called a play in the playbook that required the OL, TE, and RB to sell run but it was actually a pass play from the start. Having your OL run blocking on a pass play called would work only on quick developing plays such as this one.

  • dgh57

    If Haley’s playbook is as big as I think it is then somewhere in there there has to be a play just like the one called and have everyone else sell the run. In other words disguise the play as a run but the play called is the one ran on that play. If you’re run blocking on a pass play it has to be a quick developing pass play for it to work.