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48 Plays That Shaped The Steelers 2013 Season: Week 7 Versus Ravens


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.

Recapping their second victory of the year with a 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7.

Play #1 – 1st Quarter: Steve McLendon TFL

Third and one for Baltimore late in the first quarter. Ninth play of the drive that has taken the Ravens from their 24 to the Steelers’ 26. Play I broke down in my “Film Room” series.

The Ravens attempt to run an inside zone with back Bernard Pierce. Steve McLendon works through center Gino Gradkowski, penetrates, and makes the tackle in the backfield for a loss of one.

Baltimore settles for a 46 yard field goal, allowing Pittsburgh to maintain the lead. In a game that didn’t feature a ton of splash plays, this is one of those where its importance is only realized after the final whistle.

To the bigger point, this play highlighted McLendon’s greatest attribute, his athleticism. Not cut from the mold of the 340 pound plugger, he is a force against zone blocking schemes that pride themselves on being more athletic than the defensive line. McLendon still has his faults and the jury still out on him, but plays like this show why he is a starter in Pittsburgh.

Play #2 – 3rd Quarter: Ben Roethlisberger 19 yard rush

Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t broken 100 yards rushing in a season since 2010. Nor has he run for a gain of 20+ yards since that year. In his older age, he’s settled more into the pocket, willing to wait for an open receiver than cross the line of scrimmage and take off.

But in a pinch, he’ll still do it. And on this third quarter run to keep a drive alive, Roethlisberger has his longest run of the season.

Like the Ravens in the above play, it’s third and one for the home team. The Steelers attempt to throw out of a run heavy personnel. Just one wide receiver, and that’s Jerricho Cotchery, not Antonio Brown. Only a two man route that is well defended by Baltimore. Nowhere for Ben to throw.

To make the situation worse, Heath Miller is left one-on-one to pass block Terrell Suggs. Off the ball, Miller lunges, letting Suggs dip on by. Roethlisberger eludes him, scrambles to his left, realizes he doesn’t have an outlet, and scampers off. Because both routes are run to the right side, there’s nothing but green grass to the left. He smartly runs out of bounds untouched but not after a gain of 19.

It certainly wasn’t to the degree of Ben falling off defenders like we’ve seen before – one of my favorites coming against Suggs – but it achieved the same result. Keep the sticks moving.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/09000d5d81cae128/Roethlisberger-avoids-sack

The drive only comes away with three points, but when it’s Ravens v. Steelers, every one counts. If it’s Peyton Manning in the pocket on that play, the Steelers’ don’t convert. That’s what makes Big Ben special.

Play #3 – 4th quarter: Shaun Suisham’s game-winning field goal

Moments like this prove the “each one counts” adage true. Over the course of the rivalry, yet another game decided by one-possession. This time around, Pittsburgh bests Baltimore on the toe of Shaun Suisham.

After a healthy 37 yard return by Emmanuel Sanders (who would have returned it for a touchdown if it wasn’t for him barely stepping out of bounds), and an ensuing five play drive that got Pittsburgh down to the opposing 24, Suisham caps it off with a 42 yarder that neatly split the uprights as the final clocks tick to zero.

A play like this shows Suisham’s consistency and frankly, how underrated he’s been the last two seasons. After a rocky 2011 campaign where many fans wanted to show him the door, he’s responded by going 58-63 the last two seasons. That’s 92%.

Defeat the Ravens? You just can’t put a price on that.

Previous Weeks

Week 1 Titans
Week 2 Bengals
Week 3 Bears
Week 4 Vikings
Week 6 Jets

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  • toonasteel

    Nice little block at the end by J. Dwyer to spring Ben for another 3-4 yds and to not get him touched at all as he tries to get as much yardage as he can before stepping out of bounds. It was sure a hustle block as he saw Ben start to run and really hustled to give him some run support.
    I’ll definitely be following Dwyer this year and am very curious as to how he will do this year at the Cards.

  • chris ward

    Ben being Ben.

  • Steelers12328882

    I was going to say the same thing.

  • Ahmad

    That’s 2 years in a row that $ui$ham has kicked the game winning field goal against the Ravens. If either game has to come down to his leg this year, I would not mind at all.

  • DoctorNoah

    Was just thinking on Stevie Mac’s okay that the Ravens’ RG springs very athletically into Ziggy hood but the center wasn’t giving much of a push. That basically turns the playside A gap into a huge gaping hole for Stevie Mac to almost fall through. The center is barely moving to his right. Is that 90’s athleticism or just the Ravens’ center poorly playing the inside zone?

  • Alex Kozora

    It’s the angle that lets the guard attack like that. Much sharper and lets him crash down the line quicker.

  • DoctorNoah

    Alex: Fair enough. What is the center supposed to be doing there? BTW – I wish we could get inside penetration like that more often.

    Though we’ve had some excellent edge rushers over the past few years, it seems that the only way we’ve really been able to beat specifically Brady and Manning is interior pressure and not letting them step up into the pocket. Do you think Stevie Mac provides that kind of push, or is the jury still out?

  • Alex Kozora

    His goal is to reach block and get in front of McLendon, carrying him down the line. Get the DL moving laterally and take him out of the play. Remember, in a ZBS, the back is reading the hats of the defenders. That determines where he runs. Any backfield penetration obviously blows that whole theory up.

    Interior pressure is ideal, no matter what caliber of QB you’re facing. Brady and Manning are KINGS at being mobile inside the pocket. People call Manning a statue and he is – outside of the pocket. But no one feels the rush and can climb and slide in the pocket like Peyton Manning. Brady is right up there too, though behind.

    When there’s pressure from the outside, the QB still has options. He can climb the pocket, slide, and then roll out. You’re able to maintain your base, keep your eyes downfield, and still make the play – “feeling the rush” is the term generally used.

    Few QBs can handle interior pressure well. Really just ultra-mobile guys like Newton and Kaep that can scramble. When there’s pressure up the middle, you as a quarterback are forced into either making a throw in the pocket, making it difficult to step into the throw, or try to immediately scramble to the edge, at risk of being taken down from behind by the interior pressure or running into an edge rusher. Once you get outside of the pocket, an offensive line is at a severe disadvantage. Now, the DL doesn’t have to go THROUGH the OL, they can take the angle and basically go around.

    McLendon provides some push but he won’t see the field a whole lot on passing downs. Steelers will be going subpackage and pulling their nose off the field.

    Heyward is where the real pressure is going to come from. He’s a stud and the whole league is going to find that out this year. Guy has everything you look for and a workhorse when it comes to snaps. Tuitt also excels there and that’s what really excites me about him, especially in his rookie year.

    The need for an interior rush is why 3-4 DEs now have to be able to rush the passer at a high level, too. They really have to be the complete package, and that’s why they’re harder to find and why you can’t take a late round guy who was a run stuffer like they did with Keisel (just 9 sacks in his college career).

  • DoctorNoah

    This is great stuff Alex. I appreciate your taking the time to respond.

    When you say McLendon is going off the field on passing downs, I get that for Big Snack or another War Daddy nosetackle, but isn’t the point of McLendon being so agile and having penetration ability that we could actually keep him there in sub-package football, especially if Tuitt still has a lot of developing to do? I mean, don’t get me wrong, but Cam Thomas vs. McLendon on 3rd down, wouldn’t you lean towards McLendon? I’d love Tuitt to be in the starting lineup early, but I don’t know if he’s ready.

  • Alex Kozora

    That athleticism is about being an asset against the run more than it is as a pass rusher. When you’re against teams that run ZBS like Baltimore, that’s where you have the advantage. Ability to penetrate and get into the backfield and not get shoved down the line.

    But when you’re on 3rd and medium/long, you’re not always going to be in your base. You’ll be in nickel or dime, and the first player to be taken off is the nose tackle.

    McLendon will rotate to end on passing downs as he did last year, so he will get a chance to rush there. But not as a true nose.

  • steeltown

    Good game. I remember Bell having a nice day on the ground and Timmons playing possessed

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