Steelers Film Room: New Defensive Looks Against Eagles

By Alex Kozora

With Thursday being the Pittsburgh Steelers dress rehearsal, the defense became more complex than usual. Factor in a Philadelphia Eagles exotic offense and it forced the Steelers to show a lot of new or rare looks. We’ll break down some of these below. Things to file away for during the year.

1. 1st and 10, 9:19 1st. Eagles are in a 2×2 look, two receivers stacked to each side. The Steelers are in their base 3-4. Troy Polamalu is rolled up close to the line of scrimmage at the bottom. Ike is five yards behind.

Although initially confused of where to line up, Ryan Shazier is removed from the core of the formation to provide help at the top. Allows the linebackers to still set the edge or rush the QB.


Eagles run a zone read, Nick Foles on the keep. Steelers scrape – as I pointed out in my game breakdown – and the run goes for no gain.

2. 1st and 10, 7:14 1st. Just a small wrinkle here. Steelers trying to find ways to stay in their base against 11 personnel. Man-free with Troy Polamalu rolled into the slot.


Pass is incomplete into the right flat.

3. 3rd and 10, 6:20 1st. Jarvis Jones lined up at inside linebacker. Jason Worilds and Lawrence Timmons as the outside linebackers.


Unfortunately, this is the touchdown screen to Lesean McCoy.

4. 3rd and 8, 14:29 2nd. Lawrence Timmons stacks at LOLB with Jason Worilds.


Timmons comes off the edge while Worilds drops on a “hug” blitz, covering the back as he releases into the flat.


Pass is complete to Zach Ertz for a 12 yard completion.

5. 1st and 10, 2:32 2nd. Nickel vs 21 personnel, the TE lined up in the slot. Again, remove Shazier from the core of the formation. William Gay moves into the box as a hybrid linebacker to replace Shazier.


Play results in a nine yard pickup to Jeremy Maclin.

6. 2nd and 10, 1:25 2nd. Lot going on here. Jarvis Jones and Lawrence stacked at LOLB. Lawrence Timmons shifts from the Buck to ROLB. Stephon Tuitt lines up as the zero tech and Cam Heyward appears to be the four, an “under” shift due to the linebackers stacking. William Gay again moves into the box.


Pass on the play falls incomplete.

7. 3rd and 10, 1:20 2nd. The next play. Now Lawrence Timmons is stacked with Jason Worilds at LOLB. Same under front but with Cam Thomas replacing Stephon Tuitt.

Troy Polamalu appears to be playing “Robber” coverage with William Gay really taking on more of a free safety role.


Nick Foles’ pass is complete for just a two yard gain.

8. 3rd and 4, 2:58 3rd. Most of the examples are plucked from the first half. Took the first one I saw but some of these variations were repeated in the second half. And once the Steelers’ second-team came in, things became more vanilla.

Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds acting as the LOLBs. Ike Taylor lines up in the slot and rushes on a cat blitz. Troy Polamalu rolls over to be the mock right cornerback.

In coverage, it seems to be a quarters, quarters, halves. Polamalu and Mike Mitchell responsible for a quarter of the field – you can see Mitchell come off the hashmarks in the GIF below – and Cortez Allen responsible for the right half.


Ike Taylor gets a free lane to the QB but Mark Sanchez fires a dime to Trey Burton down the seam.

9. 1st and 10, 11:47 4th. Eagles in a 3×1 look. Steelers counter by moving all three corners to that side. Antwon Blake is still the LCB but Brice McCain and Isaiah Green are in the slot. Shamarko Thomas acts as the right cornerback.


Eagles know what they’re doing though, running student body left. It results in Kenjon Barner being able to hit the edge and rack up 16 yards.

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.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    looks to me like they got beat so bad cause they were trying things they never have before

  • ApexSteel

    I would be comfortable using that as a slight excuse for that trash they pulled last Thursday, but the offense was terrible too. I think they were just that bad last week.

  • frednash


    Why aren’t you a coach Alex?

  • Addison

    Who’s defense is this Tomlin’s or Dicks? I’m not asking this to put the blame on someone.

  • Steelers12328882

    What I like most about this are the 1st two examples, because the Steelers are in their base and the results are a run for no gain and an incomplete pass. With Polamalu and Shazier the Steelers should be able to stay in their base and match up with anyone in their 11 personnel.

  • joed32

    He’s not old enough?

  • Jim Foles

    Barner tackled downfield 16 yards by McCullers.. Our 362lb NT

  • PA2AK

    Exactly….and from here…NEVER PUT JONES IN THE MIDDLE!

  • Abed Medawar

    great pick up, that was impressive hustle, meanwhile Moats is jogging along watching the play

  • Tony Richards

    Would you say these scheme designs are based on player ability or player deficiency? ROLB can’t rush from the edge so move him to ILB and have 94 rush? Or is this an attempt to keep OCs guessing?

  • srdan

    I would say its Dick adapting his defense to a modern NFL

  • srdan

    Seems like we are very flexible on defense. Although it could be argued that we are trying to find places for people to play.

    Shamarko getting reps at corner last year was a blessing.

    Gay playing some FS shouldn’t be a surprise.

    Maximizing on 43’s instincts as teh “robber” is a good wrinkle.

    Timmons sucked at OLB a couple years ago, nothing changed.

    Shazier and Troy should be pretty much interchangable this season. As it stands right now, troy is better at getting off blocks.

  • Alex Kozora

    Although it is not an excuse, they still got killed at the POA, it is a big of an explanation and made me feel slightly better about it. There was obvious confusion throughout the game. And on the road, it makes it all the more difficult.

  • Alex Kozora

    LeBeau’s defense. He still calls the shots.

  • Alex Kozora

    Should be pointed out Brice McCain was the next man up to play nickel after Gay left for a play. Not Shark.

  • Alex Kozora

    It’s just built into LeBeau’s philosophy. You’ll see these looks from every grouping. Even Dan Molls has lined up off the edge before.

  • frednash

    Maybe not

    But definitely with it!

  • srdan

    you mean at corner?

  • Shea Fahr

    Thank Goodness the Rookie NT caught up to the play because even Golden was unable to bring him down at the end of the play.

  • steeltown

    That’s what scares me about Golden, he doesn’t shy away from contact but he seems to get bettered by Offensive skill position players

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    McCullers is gonna cause a couple shoulder injuries this year landing on little dudes like that.

  • ApexSteel

    Even still they had these new looks against the second offense and they still had just as much trouble. It might make us feel slightly better as fans, but it was still a terrible performance.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes. Nickel back.

  • pat

    Good looks from our base 3-4 def hope we run that a little more this yr even if it means replacing a slower linebacker with Spence if we believe it to be a pass. That being said Sanchez threw a few dimes that if they were slightly under thrown could have been a pick

  • Steve

    Would say Troy has better instincts. Shazier has looked confused at times.

  • Steve

    Hopefully Dan see’s more playing time than Fang the past few years.

  • charles

    Very curious why Shamarko is not really challenging Mitchell at safety. He is a big hitter, but can he cover or is he a liability like he was in the last game that he played in uninjured last year against the Pats?