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Steelers Vs. Giants Game Rewind – Second Half


By Alex Kozora

Game breakdown and analysis from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-16 loss against the New York Giants. Gobs of info to get to so let’s not waste any more time.

Second Half

Martavis Bryant and Derek Moye open up the second half as the starting receivers. Paulson and Eric Waters – not Rob Blanchflower – start in a two tight end set.

– Bryant’s first target. Know it was negated by penalty but it’s still a drop to me. Poor technique. Body catches, letting the pass into his pads. Great way to drop passes in the NFL.

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– Lack of cohesion along the second-team line creates a big headache. Chris Hubbard looks the worst from it on back-to-back plays. The first is a pass with the RE slanting between LT and LG. Mike Adams and Hubbard aren’t quite sure who is supposed to pick it up and the defender splits the two of them, causing pressure.

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Another missed stunt on the next play where Hubbard is late to react to it. It’s a handoff and the defender smacks Jordan Hall near the line.

– Didn’t see much from Moats coming off the edge as a pass rusher but like his speed bull rush. Generates power, has the ability to convert. Walks the RT deep into the pocket on this occasion.

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– One uncommon look. Three receivers to one side. Derek Moye as the No. 1 (farthest outside), Bryant the No. 2 (in the middle), and Justin Brown the No. 3 (closest to the tackle).

– Whimper’s legs go dead here and Damontre Moore beats him easily.

– On two straight punts, Tauren Poole was the first man in the face of the return man. Granted, he doesn’t have to block on the line like the rest but still, good hustle.

– “So much for the freshman 15, how about the freshman 50!” – Bob Pompeani referring to Daniel McCullers’ weight gain, and receiving the sad trombone joke of the day.

– Good and bad here from Landry Jones. Feels the rush well, climbs the pockets, and gets off his first read to try and locate his checkdown.

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But the throw is behind and falls incomplete. Know there is pressure but hitting your back on a checkdown is a must. No excuses to miss in that situation.

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– 3rd and 14 with 6:45 left in the 3rd. David Paulson chips the defensive end, knocking him down, and then receives a Jones pass in the flat. All-around nice play from him.

– Couple snaps where the team was again shifting around its linebackers. Here’s Chris Carter over the middle with Garvin at ROLB.

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On the snap, Carter and Josh Mauro stunt. Giants fail to pick it up and the UDFA defensive end is left one-on-one with the running back. A tasty matchup.

– Some TV trickery. It looks like Jeff Verszyla’s interview with Lance Moore is live, doesn’t it? When it’s tossed, the Steelers’ offense has the ball. But during the interview, you can clearly see Sean Spence behind Moore. It’s the Giants punting on their previous series.

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I’m onto you, KDKA.

– Late in the third, David Paulson and Bryce Davis were the tight ends in 12 personnel.

– Your Edmund Nelson quote of the day. “Size does matter, Bob.”  Not cool man. Let’s try and class this broadcast up, ok?

– Devin Smith is the player that replaces Antwon Blake at LCB, not Shaq Richardson, though the rookie would eventually play. That isn’t a particularly great sign to play behind someone on a futures contract.

– Another bad sign, probably even more troubling. Brian Arnfelt doesn’t play his first defensive snap until there’s 2:30 left in the third quarter.

– On one Giants’ pass play, Vic So’oto attempts to rush the QB and play coverage at the same time. When you try and do both, you typically don’t do either well. And that’s what happens. So’oto was asked to rush and that’s what he should have done until the ball came out.

– Third and six incompletion from Landry Jones to Derek Moye in the red zone. We’re talking about situational football here. Can you move the sticks or will you be forced to settle for a field goal? Granted, the pass was one more of chance, a jump ball to Moye, but it was thrown behind and at the end of the day, incomplete. Jones failes to move his offense.

Nick Williams replaces Ethan Hemer at LE early in the 4th.

– I know many people trashed Isaiah Green in this game but I find less fault in him than most. On that game-winning drive, it’s all scheme. Cover 3, off coverage. Keep everything in front, catch the tackle. And in Ben McAdoo’s scheme, the ball is going to come out quick and is content with taking those quick hitters. The important part is that Green didn’t miss a single tackle.

And the one time he got to play man coverage, he broke the pass up.

– Not a fan of Jordan Zumwalt leading with his shoulder on his big pop on the running back but did like the angle he took to get to the ball. Understands he lacks speed and didn’t try to play faster than he is. Let’s bring the arms next time though. A starting-caliber back is going to cut back with ease against a linebacker leading with his shoulder.

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– Have to give credit to So’oto and Jones for playing to the whistle on his touchdown. Jordan Dangerfield is another player that immediately recognized the play wasn’t dead, pointing the players to the end zone.

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“Can’t believe they just did that touchdown. That was good.” – My mother, recapping the score.

Danny Smith giving Mike Sellers the chance to instruct his coverage unit following the score. Nice to see.

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– Interesting that the team had nickel packages where Nick Williams was taken out and Daniel McCullers left in. As I’ve said before, 350 pounds can do a real nice job of collapsing the pocket and becoming an effective pass rush.

– Here’s Howard Jones getting run up the arc.

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And here’s Howard Jones, on the same play, reappearing in a place where a ROLB definitely shouldn’t be.

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Roy Philon replaces Daniel McCullers for two plays on the Giants’ long, touchdown-scoring drive.

– A bunch of second-teamers, including Moats, Williams, and Fangupo, came in on the goalline. Not sure if that was to replace players that were gassed or to give the second-teamers a situational look they hadn’t been put in before.

– Nice form tackle by Jordan Dangerfield on Michael Cox. Sinks his hips, brings his arms, and drives through with the lower half. Well done.

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– Going back to Green, I thought he did as good of a job as you could ask for on the touchdown. He’s giving up five or six inches and a lot of weight to Corey Washington. It’s just a tough matchup. But Green turns his head, locates the ball, comes back to the receiver, and attempts to play the pocket like you’re taught. Just boxed out by the (much) bigger man.

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– Third-team offensive line: Mike Adams, Chris Elkins, Wesley Johnson, Will Simmons, Emmanuel McCray.

– Landry Jones’ near pick. Thought he showed the appropriate touch on the dig to Derek Moye. If the throw is any lower, the sinking linebacker is going to tip it or pick it off. Moye has to make the catch, even if it’s a little tall for him.

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The issue I did see with Jones is possibly missing an open Justin Brown. It’s difficult to criticize a read sometimes because you don’t know what the progression was, and I really wish I had the All-22. But Jones may have locked onto Moye. If he throws to Brown’s outside shoulder, it’s likely a catch. Maybe even a score.

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– Jones’ strip/sack fumble Justin Brown inexplicably recovered. Wes Johnson has to do a better job here. Follows the looping DE instead of passing him off. It vacates the middle of the field and the backside stunt from the looping RE lets him come in scot-free. Johnson looks lost.

And it might have even confused and froze Will Simmons, who looks at the rookie center, which results in losing his man and allowing more pressure.

– Thought Chris Elkins was the only third-teamer that was really positive. Played with good bend and got his arms extended. Limited reps but a nice showing. Wish we could have gotten to see the third team line play more than one series. Hopefully next week.

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– Brian Arnfelt has a chance to make a TFL late in the waning moments, coming through unblocked on a Power O where the guard vacated the hole and no one down blocked the end. But he whiffs at air trying to make the tackle and the runner picks up the first down, securing the Giants’ victory. Sums up his night.

– Players who did not play: CJ Goodwin, James Shaw, Kashif Moore, and Lew Toler. Disappointed Moore didn’t log a snap. He’s the most talented of the four and I am still holding out a tiny bit of hope he can land on the practice squad.

– The order the running backs appeared out of the backfield: Bell, Blount, Archer, Poole, Hall, Miguel Maysonet, Josh Harris, and Jawan Jamison. All eight played which is probably the most that have played for any team so far in the preseason, though Jamison didn’t have a touch and Harris didn’t record a carry.

– We’ll finish the breakdown up by going through each position, look at some of the highlights of lowlights of the group.

Quarterback

– On second glance, Bruce Gradkowski didn’t have as terrible of a game as I originally thought. The overthrow to Matt Spaeth was bad but his corner route to Wheaton was NFL-level. A veteran playing with a group composed of inexperienced players is a tough circumstance.

Landry Jones wasn’t terrible but certainly not great either. Saw some velocity and touch to his game. Has a better arm than I remembered. Still, he looks like he has a tendency to lock onto his first target and his missed checkdown to Maysonet was pretty brutal. For a guy like that, I’m always interested in his response from the first game to the next. Let’s see what happens Saturday.

Running Back

Le’Veon Bell had a fine game in limited action and definitely looks a tick quicker. LeGarrette Blount gave fans a brief look at his quick feet. I hope Dri Archer is given a few more carries that aren’t end of the half draws. Tauren Poole had his struggles as a runner but performed well on special teams. The fact he spent the game as the upback is a major plus for his chances.

It has to be disappointing for Miguel Maysonet to play so little. For a guy who had come in before Jordan Hall the last week during practice, having Hall leapfrog him in this game and hog most of the carries – 6 to Maysonet’s 2 – is a step back. Didn’t see Maysonet on special teams either.

Harris and Jamison were nondescript and have become afterthoughts. Harris showed a little bit of talent early in camp but the light has since dimmed.

As mentioned, Will Johnson was used all over the place.

Wide Receiver

Harder to talk about this group because half them, even if they’re camp bodies, didn’t play. Markus Wheaton took a nice first step after a strong start to camp. Seeing Justin Brown line up in the slot and on the outside proves that he has learned each spot. Only makes him more valuable.

I’ve said it since the day he was drafted. Martavis Bryant will frustrate as much as he will wow you. As I wrote in the pre-game write-up, perspective is key. Don’t get too high or too low on any player. He was one of the rawest players coming out of the draft. Let him develop. Having said that, I still stand by my thought that Bryant’s impact will be minimal in his rookie year.

Derek Moye is big but that’s about it. Little separation and his catch percentage is one of the worst on the team throughout camp.

Tight End

Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth were fine blockers, as you’d expect. But like what’s happened in training camp, the rest of this group disappeared in the game. Three tight ends played five or fewer snaps, making any read on their game difficult. Waters did fall off one of his run blocks. At least Blanchflower didn’t look as gimpy. I’d have David Paulson penciled in this spot for now. At least he has experience and wouldn’t be lost if forced into action, even if he isn’t effective.

Offensive Line

As I mentioned, seeing David DeCastro pull is a huge plus for the offense this year. Kelvin Beachum had his hands full versus Jason Pierre-Paul. Want to see him respond against Mario Williams next week, including the joint-practices.

I was excited for Chris Hubbard’s prospects but have soured on him. Looked lost, slow to react, and not the athlete that he was billed as. We’ll see what happens next week.

Mike Adams might have looked a bit better against backups but seeing him struggle against starters is all you need to know. No one wants Mike Adams to be a perennial backup. Guy Whimper didn’t look much better, making the backup tackle situation unsettled, to say the least.

Only Chris Elkins was impressive along the third team in their limited reps.

I’m still excited about the starting five but if a starter goes down, and history says one will, the Steelers are going to be in a difficult position.

Defensive Line

Two players stuck out while one stepped back. Josh Mauro and Nick Williams put together relatively impressive performances. Mauro got to play as the second team right end, showed arm extension, and the ability to get into the backfield and penetrate. He also ran to the ball well. Williams showed the best get off of anyone beyond the 1’s, and worked off his blocks. Still some inconsistency and he could get swallowed up, but he took advantage of the limited snaps he got.

Brian Arnfelt looks like a guy who is in severe danger of being cut. There is no way the team was content with Arnfelt, choosing to sit him to let others play. No team is comfortable in their evaluation of a second year player with two career snaps. Playing behind an undrafted rookie free agent is a dagger.

If the NFL was a game of Candyland, Mauro and Williams would be taking a shortcut through the Gumdrop Pass. Arnfelt would be stuck in the Peppermint Forest.

That’s a Candyland reference on a football blog. Pulitzer, please.

Stephon Tuitt held the POA well. Also played on three special teams units.

Cam Thomas had one of the best games of anyone on the line. Liked his arm extension and ability to get off blocks. Has the strength to anchor. Just worried about him being ridden down the line against zone blocking schemes. Once that strength gets moving, it’s tough to stop.

Daniel McCullers was one of the most polarizing figures coming into Saturday. Thought it was a nice start. Love that he had to log ten snaps on a 12 play drive. Immediate test of his conditioning. Handled it pretty well and I didn’t see a noticeable drop off in his first step or pad level, two things that immediately go when you’re tired. Ran to the ball when he needed to and obviously, his strength can be overpowering against smaller backups.

Just have to worry about his ability to stay on his feet or keep his base when getting chipped from the side. If you’re coming at him, he’ll get his arms into your pads and hold the point. Chip from the side and you can knock him off balance. Not sure how to combat that.

Linebackers

The inside linebackers were solid across the board. Sean Spence and Vince Williams arguably had the best performances.

Jordan Zumwalt did not play a snap on special teams. Anywhere. Bad, bad news for a guy whose only way onto the 53 is through Danny Smith.

Arthur Moats made progress as a pass rusher. Still wanting to see more out of him. Chris Carter is like Mike Adams. Can beat backups, disappears versus starters. Howard Jones made his name on special teams, even if he didn’t show much off the edge. He took Chris Carter’s spot on first team kick coverage. That’s telling. I think the team is looking for a reason to knock Carter off.

Vic So’oto has some counters and won’t get run up the arc but the result is the same. He can’t get to the quarterback.

Defensive Back

Not a ton to note here. Isaiah Green did what a Steelers’ corner should do. Tackle the catch. First team kick coverage makes me slightly raise an eyebrow in a positive way.

By no means should anyone cut Shaq Richardson today, but he’s got an uphill battle to climb. I’m not even completely convinced that he’s ahead of Devin Smith yet, let alone Brice McCain.

Jordan Dangerfield continued to do what he does best – hit. Ditto with Shamarko Thomas. Ross Ventrone was a sure tackler, too.

Will Allen looked his age. If there was any Steelers’ safety that was going to be cut to keep a sixth corner or a guy like Dangerfield, something I still consider to be unlikely, it’d be Allen.

Welcome back to Steelers’ football, everybody.

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  • John Wallace

    Fantastic game analysis Alex. You continue to amaze me. Keep it up brother.

  • Mark_K

    Great job as always Alex……..frustrated about that last drive ending fumble but not really sure. Can someone describe textbook how it should have been picked up by the Oline? 5 lineman and the back engage 5 rushers. Left side is 3×3, who should have picked up the looping RE? Right side is 3×2, how should have they matched up? Seems like what Johnson did was okay if the RG stays engaged and the RT picks up the looper; and the left side responds accordingly. Thanks

  • Mark_K

    or the RG should not have engaged 2 on 1 and dropped to zone block in the middle?

  • Craig M

    Alex, yours is the first name I look for on the Depot- enjoy your coverage always.

  • Zach

    excellent job, alex — looking forward to the camp reports this week.

  • 20Stoney

    On the lighter side, I love the quote from your mother. Have to admit I’ve heard very similar lines in my house.

  • ApexSteel

    I’ve been saying for months that Arnfelt wasn’t that good.

  • steeltown

    Whimper and Hubbard looked awful at times in this game. I really liked seeing some of the bottom DL guys like N.Williams, McCullers and Mauro stand out. Zumwalt not playing on special teams is not a good sign, probably headed for the PS unless that changes drastically in the next few weeks.

    Alex, what did you think of RG Bryant Brownings performance, I know he had that penalty but…

  • Alex Kozora

    Johnson needs to pass it off to the RG Simmons. Keep your head on a swivel and look to give help somewhere else. When the end loops back in, Johnson can pick him up. It’s 6 blocking vs a five man rush. Can’t have a sack there.

    Also the linebacker is only blitzing if the RB stays. Once the back leaks out, the LB runs with him.

  • Alex Kozora

    Browning was one of the better ones. Like his ability to get to the second level. Did have some trouble laterally in pass pro but they all did. Shame he isn’t eligible for the PS.

  • steeltown

    Ah damn, I forgot about that. He has been around the League for few yrs

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m one of the odd guys who was very pleased with Landry Jones performance. I saw a much more poised qb as opposed to the deer in the headlight look from last year. He conducted that offense very well and appeared to be in control (Remember, he’s working with 2 team). Now, some of his throws were not on target, but were in the neighborhood. He threw tight spirals and we didn’t see the floating ducks like last season. What I liked most was the last drive of the game. He marched the team down. He had total control and his passes were crisp. He was definitely in rhythm during that 2 minute drill. I look for him to improve more come Sat.

  • CEE

    Great Job Alex. No mention of Foster and Beachum though. Foster got beaten early and badly on more than one play. Beach had some rough moments as well.

  • steeltown

    I agree for the most part, he also played behind the 3rd Team OLine as well. As you mentioned, the last drive, imagine if Bryant had not fumbled that ball… that was 4th down by the way

  • cencalsteeler

    We know what Bell and Blount bring to the table. Bubble wrap them for the next few games. Let’s see the back up running backs compete with the first team. It’s hard to evaluate backs with a third string o line. We’d get a better sense of their style and see who rises to the top.

  • steeltown

    I was very impressed with Poole on special teams, he didn’t do much running behind the 2nd Team OLine but he was a force in kick coverage.

  • cencalsteeler

    We need to see everyone else. Jamison just got cut and had only 3 carries. Let’s give the remaining backs some time on the field so we have more time to evaluate these guys. I’d hate to lose Harris (who I think has potential) only to see him thrive with another team. Agree about Poole. He got some game time, now let’s spread it around to the others.

  • steeltown

    Agreed

  • GoSteelerz

    Would have liked to see everyone play. Maybe those guys don’t know the offense/defense well enough yet. Green got quite a few snaps, and though he may have tackled the catch, it looked like they were picking on him a bit with an undrafted (though talented) receiver. Devin Smith looked solid, he may deserve more playing time. Just would have like to see Toler play. It didn’t sound like he was doing worse than Green in camp, so that’s why I figured maybe he doesn’t know the defense well enough yet since he didn’t go through ota’s or minicamp with the team. Would have liked to see those receivers play some too, Moore has made a few plays in camp and he’s been around a while, should know the offense. Want to see more of Dangerfield in coverage, but I love his physicality and it seems like he takes good angles against the run. Really looking forward to 2nd pre-season game vs. Bills!

  • SteelersDepot
  • Weiss Chad

    Am I the only one who realizes this article was written by Dave Bryant?But still Alex keep up the great work!!

  • Weiss Chad

    This was written by Dave brant lol

  • Weiss Chad

    This was written by Dave bryant lol

  • Alex Kozora

    I can appreciate your mancrush on Lew Toler. You’re making me want to root for him, haha. I think of you every time I see him in practice. Which is rare, unfortunately.

  • Alex Kozora

    DeOssie is a special teams demon for them. Dad played for the Giants and won a Super Bowl, too.

  • GoSteelerz

    LOL I’d be yelling for him if I was there, that’s for sure!!!! :D I just don’t get where the coaches are coming from sometimes. In addition to getting ready for the regular season (which the veterans should only need to brush up on things or tweak a few areas in their game they’re trying to improve), isn’t the point of of training camp to see what our new/young guys can do? Shouldn’t the new/young guys be getting as many reps as possible? Isaiah Green was with us last year on the practice squad, we should know what he can do, Devin Smith as well. I want them to get their reps too of course, we need to see if/how much they’ve improved, as I think Devin Smith has. But we also need to really get a good look at guys that haven’t been here before, and it seems like that doesn’t happen. Throw them a rep here and there, I mean what’s the point? We know what Will Allen can do, let’s get Golden, Thomas, and Dangerfield more reps, let’s see them in coverage, let’s see them stuff the run. (Thomas seems like he’s getting more reps, but how many with the first team? He should be getting some, I think.) It seems like they have that mentality in general, but it seems especially true of the DB’s lately. One thing that stood out to me for Toler is that he can get off or avoid blocks and make hard tackles. Not many corners are like that and that’s something that Steeler corners in particular need to do. That play where he shed that block and tackled Bryant and the coaches liked it? That’s routine for Toler, he did that all the time in college. I watched the entire Arkansas vs. Rutgers game, and Toler looked good, he had good coverage and shed blocks and made tackles on big backs and forced a fumble. He has to prove it at this level, but it seems like he’s not really getting a chance to. At this point he needs to adjust to the speed of the game and learn our defense, so there will be some growing pains… Sounds like great candidate for the practice squad to me. From the game and from your reports I would think it should go like this: Taylor and C. Allen starters, then Gay, Blake, and McCain (he’s doing surprisingly well, maybe the change of scenery has helped). Then I think if they want to keep 6, Devin Smith. Richardson and Toler on the practice squad. You can’t teach the desire to be physical. Toler has that in spades, I don’t think you get rid of a guy like that… Just my opinion as a fan. I know the coaches know much more than I do, just doesn’t make sense to me sometimes, that’s all.

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