Steelers vs Bills – Second Half Notes And Observations

Below are some of my notes and observations from having reviewed the tape of the first half of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.

  • The Steelers begin the second half with two tight ends on the field, with Rob Blanchflower being the second. Second-team offensive line in, with the most notable element being Mike Adams at right tackle and Guy Whimper at left tackle.
  • Poor showing by the entire line on first down in pass protection. Everybody gives up ground, but it’s Chris Hubbard’s man that gets the sack. The sack was caused, however, by Landry Jones being forced to flee the pocket. Hubbard may have been the least to blame here.
  • Quickly back to 11 personnel. Martavis Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey play the outside receivers ahead of Derek Moye. Justin Brown in the slot. Dri Archer in the backfield, but fortunately doesn’t have to get his hands dirty.
  • Cody Wallace allowed penetration and held. The first two games have not been the best showing for the Steelers’ backup center. And many wanted him to start and to cut ties with Maurkice Pouncey.
  • David Paulson showed a bit of sign of life, making a tackler miss after a reception, backtracking and then cutting up field to gain an extra few yards, even if it was second and 17. Third and four is better than third and eight. But Jones threw behind Paulson on third down.
  • Howard Jones records the special teams tackle. Heyward-Bey as the gunner didn’t really seem all that blazing fast.
  • Antwon Blake got leaped over by Boobie Dixon. Not a good game for Blake, who could get leaped over by Brice McCain as the fourth cornerback.
  • Daniel McCullers turned out of a hole. This game was not nearly as impressive as the first for the rookie.
  • Unblocked on the next play and McCullers missed an easy tackle in the backfield. Sean Spence tracked it down.
  • After a good first half, Robert Golden got trucked by Evan Rodriguez. He gained an extra 13 yards from where Golden contacted him, but fortunately for the safety, Shamarko Thomas’ tackle jarred the ball loose. To complete his redemption, it was Golden and his hustling down the field who fell onto the fumble.
  • Of course, Josh Mauro just so happened to be in the vicinity, as he always is. In the first game, he showed a lot of hustle, but I thought he executed better in game two. Onward and upward it is.
  • Either Landon Cohen was offsides on the ensuing first down, or he had an incredible jump off the ball to split Wallace and Hubbard, blowing Archer up in the backfield. It’s honestly difficult to tell. He definitely moved before the snap, but it seems he was still onside. Just a great play by the veteran journeyman. To be fair, the reach block is also a difficult assignment for a center.
  • At first appeared to be a jailbreak, but Jones hit Archer on a shallow pass, and before you know it, the rookie was 40 yards down the field. If it weren’t for the sideline he would have been gone, but the safety caught him, just barely, by the jersey.
  • The line held up in pass protection on Jones’ pass to Bryant in the end zone. It’s important to keep in mind that the bad plays tend to stick in your mind more easily.
  • Of course, both Adams and Whimper were beaten on the next play. Adams was walked back into Jones, while Whimper’s man dipped under him and evaded his push. But Jones needs to show better awareness in this situation. The fumble was returned a long way and soon converted into points.
  • Naturally, it was Michael Palmer on the eventual tackle. Little things like that got him on the roster a year ago.
  • Good wrap up leg tackle by Spence on first down.
  • Blake slipped in the end zone on second down and was forced to commit pass interference to try to save a touchdown, giving the Bills first and goal.
  • Main credit for the first and goal stop goes to Stephon Tuitt and Spence.
  • Mauro was too quick to the ground on second and goal. Vince Williams nearly stuffed the back at the goal line, but he elevated and broke the plane. Jones got a helmet in there as well.
  • The Steelers finally got a kick return, and it was taken by James Shaw.
  • Note: Wallace moved to left guard after an injury on the earlier fumble. Rookie Wesley Johnson entered the game at center.
  • Palmer still in as the second tight end now. Paulson couldn’t hold his block and allowed the tackle on Tauren Poole.
  • Johnson got a block (in the back) to clear a lane for Poole on second down. The line held up in protection on third down, but, apparently, the pass was too hot to handle for Bryant. Looked very catchable to me.
  • I’m not seeing great effort from Heyward-Bey on special teams as a gunner.
  • Chris Carter got pressure on Thad Lewis on third and long, but only because two Bills got in each other’s way. Isaiah Green was there to prevent a completion after Carter couldn’t finish.
  • Jones got fooled badly on a quarterback keeper by Lewis. Mauro didn’t. But he’s a lineman.
  • It seemed that McCain was beat down the field on a deep route that was overthrown, but you see him pointing to the sideline after the play. I believe he was suggesting that the receiver stepped out of bounds, meaning he would not be able to be the first player to touch the ball anyway.
  • A cornerback blitz rushed Lewis, resulting in an errant pass that Golden easily plucked out of the air.
  • If Poole makes the team, it will be for special teams.
  • Third-team defense in with seconds remaining in the third quarter. Vic So’oto at left outside linebacker. Defensive line of Ethan Hemer, Hebron Fangupo, Brian Arnfelt from left to right. Dan Molls and Terence Garvin at inside linebacker, but second-team safeties still in.
  • Arnfelt worked to the ball well on second down.
  • Another good stick for a loss or no gain by Thomas. McCain defended the pass well on the next play but dropped an interception. No harm done as the Bills missed the ensuing field goal.
  • Kashif Moore was able to show a little bit in his time, but you have to think he’s only vying for a spot on the practice squad at best.
  • Bryant finally put his size to good use, going up high for a reception near the sideline from Bruce Gradkowski.
  • Fangupo with a stop. He didn’t play much this game, but he did play fairly well, perhaps keeping his name in the discussion.
  • Steelers showed six rushers at the line on third and eight. Five rush, with Garvin dropping to cover. Roy Philon was able to get inside. So’oto collapsed the right side. Those two pressures forced the quarterback to flee. Mauro was able to disengage for the sack.
  • Heyward-Bey did an excellent job as a jammer on the ensuing punt. I don’t know what to think of him yet.
  • Whimper blown off the ball, opening a gap for his own man to make the tackle.
  • Came back on the next play to stonewall the pass rusher. Gradkowski had a beautiful pocket from under center to launch one down the field to Bryant. He had a realistic shot at that one, but the defender may have gotten a hand in there late to agitate things. Still, the temptation is undeniably strong to want to see Bryant come down with one of these contested balls soon.
  • Garvin really shows off his safety-like agility sometimes on running plays. Usually in a good way. He was strong in run support in this game with the third-team defense.
  • Credit where it’s due, Ross Ventrone was playing well too, even if it seems impossible for him to make the team.
  • Mauro dropped, slightly, in coverage, and then came in to tackle the quarterback at the line of scrimmage when he was flushed out.
  • On the late Gradkowski interception to Bryant, the defensive back made a wonderful play on the ball, tipping it back to his teammate. Bryant tried to cup the ball and tip it toward himself, but the defender got his hand up.
  • The pass protection was strong on that drive, however.
  • Lew Toler with a missed tackle. I fear he may not make this team.
  • Garvin beat the running back too easily for a sack.
  • So’oto earns a spot on my roster for keeping this game out of overtime. Jones did well to get to the ball, but So’oto has been the better overall player on defense. How much stock do you put on being the guy that’s around the ball for fumble recoveries, as opposed to being the one that causes the fumbles?

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • srdan

    Nice write up. HOw many times do you watch the darn game?

    My quick hits:
    -The Golden play is what championship teams are made of. You get knocked down over the span of a football season. It’s all about how quickly you get up and hustle back.
    -This defense has a feistiness to it. From teh first to third unit and everywhere in between. It seems like its becoming a culture. I love that. I don’t mind losing a game as long as I am watching a defense that is laying it on the line every play. It was a joy to watch. If I had to pick a personallity they are taking on is Hayward…..love that.
    -The two offensive rookies each provide a dimension that this offense didn’t have a year ago. Actually I would argue for the last 7-8 years.

    -One more thing dawned on me. We weren’t running a hurry up offense over the last 5-6 years consistently because our defense was old. With a young defense we can risk going 3 and out in a hurry. Let those young men use those young legs.

  • steeltown

    Ha! cut ties with Pouncey in favor of Wallace.. too funny

    I still would almost rather keep Palmer over Paulson, I think the #3 TE should be a capable blocker and special teams player first and foremost. We have plenty of pass catchers on this Team and that’s all Paulson appears to be, a slow WR

    Does Blake need new cleats? Man, I said it on the other thread, I hope to see a much better game from him (and C.Allen) this week. Although I have been encouraged by McCains play thus far, that’s a welcome surprise and good experience at the backend of the depth chart.

    I’d like to see So’oto get some 1st-2nd team snaps, get a better look at him against better competition. He’s atleast making plays, same cant be said for some others at that position.

    Mauro has to clearly be 2nd Team DL at this point, guy is always around the ball.

    Whimper scares me, enough said

  • steeltown

    Would love to see some breakdowns on some young Offensive guys like Wes Johnson, Hubbard and Blanchflower

  • Chad H

    So’oto I think needs to get more reps. To me he looks better than Moats. At this point I would also keep HoJo over Carter. HoJo can easily be a better ST player than Carter.

  • PA2AK

    So’oto – wouldn’t mind him sticking around at all. Carter has been a developmental player for a few years now.

    Mauro – He’s got room for improvement, but when you have guys always around the ball it typically means they hustle and know their assignments.

    Vintrone – I wish that kid was bigger. He works and isn’t afraid to mix it up. When he’s cut, it won’t be for lack of effort.

    Paulson – The depth at TE is where we all though it was months ago. A decent drop from Heath to Spaeth…a free fall from there back. Paulson doesn’t really stick out among the backups…is that all it takes for him to lose his spot. Palmer hustles and is decent on ST. The younger guys are younger.

    QB – Gradkowski will look a lot less awful with the first team. His smarts are more appealing that his athletic abilities. Landry is doing a good job confirming that it was a complete waste to pick him. This may be the position that comes back to haunt us. At the very least, how do you evaluate the depth at WR with these two ‘running’ the offense?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I just mentioned about So,oto on the other article. Finally someone realizes that he is getting more pressure than anyone else, and has been the direct cause of the turnovers. In my eyes he is easily ahead of both Carter and H Jones, who would be manhandled against first teamers. Although he is behind them on special teams. My vote is for Vic making the 53, but even the practice squad if that fails.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Heath – is getting old very quickly IMO. It’s amazing to me we haven’t drafted/acquired a better TE in the last 10 years. Perhaps we pick up a decent one after other teams’ final cuts? Either way, I see a 2nd or 3rd round TE in next year’s draft.

    Carter – I don’t see how we can afford to keep him. That might seem counter intuitive but when you’re so weak at OLB (like we currently are) you have to try to catch lightning in a bottle (like Ho Jo). You can’t afford to keep a zero upside journeyman.

    Cornerbacks – Our D Line has been a pleasant surprise, but our CBs have looked really bad this pre-season. Cortez Allen looks like a #2 or #3. And he’s the best of the bunch. I’m HOPING Ike can hold up for one more year.

    DeCastro – Nobody is talking about him, but he’s starting to look like the dominate run blocker we hoped for when we drafted him. He runs like a big TE. And finishes every single run play, 5-10 yards down the field, putting guys on the ground.

    Ben – I’m expecting a huge season out of our franchise QB. I honestly believe he’s finally starting to “get it”. Meaning he’s attacking other teams mentally. He’s identifying weaknesses and choosing specific plays to exploit that. And he’s throwing the ball accurately.

  • Biggie

    Our LBing depth is so good some very quality young guys are going to be stolen when cut before getting to the PS. It will be toughest cut down of a position on the roster. Though McCullers is still have a few growing pains he looked alot better than some are alluding too, on a few occasions he penetrated and flowed well with the play, though he didn’t make the tackle he was there. On three separate occasions he forced double teams and was eating up space as he should opening holes for the lbs to penetrate and they made plays behind the line. He definitely needs to make the roster as back at NT. McLendon still needs to get better eating up space. I am absolutely loving Tuitts progression and Mauro is standing out as 4th DE and has earned a roster spot. I also enjoyed watching Timmons and Shazier working together in the middle.

  • cencalsteeler

    No notes, but who’s names stuck out to me after the game.
    So’oto- a baller
    Mauro- reminds me of Tuitt. He’s around the ball always,.. even if it’s 20 yards down the field.
    Howard Jones- another baller who you can tell loves playing the game
    Moats- great addition to the roster.
    McCullers- every game he impresses more.
    Dangerfield- still have my eye on him.
    Mike Adams- Apollo Creed hit the nail on the head with him. Doesn’t have the eye of the Tiger, I’m afraid there’s no hope for him.
    Shazier- no brainer
    Golden- has made great strides since last year. The tackle then fumble recovery speaks volumes of his play.
    Ventrone- I wonder if this guy bugs Troy as much as he bugs me.
    Tuitt- A steal in round 2.
    Mitchell- needs to maintain his jawing cause it’s going to come back and haunt us with penalties. Let your play speak for you.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Like the last question and wonder myself but I balance it out with the number of times howard has been lucky in 2 games and the fact So oto isn’t a rookie.

  • Matt Manzo

    Them being two totally different players makes it tough! I loved So otos size and experience, but HJones’ athleticism is intriguing too! As long as one if them bumps Carter out of the way, I’ll be happy!

  • PA2AK

    Agree…with everything. DeCastro started doing that toward the end of last season. He’s quiet, but he’s certainly a big leader for that OL just by his work ethic. Hopefully more of Munchack’s nastiness rubs off on him.

    As for Ben…I think part of it is his own improvement/maturity, and a big part of it is the coaching staff putting it in his hands to make decisions on the field. Some guys are more technical, some are more ‘rise to the moment’ type players…Ben is the latter and I’d exploit it while we have him here. Also nice to be confident enough going into a game not thinking that you’re going to have to do it by yourself (i.e. no run game) while getting destroyed (i.e. no OL worth min. wage).

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Agree about the size. Especially since most of the LB’s are under 240. If we end up in a lot of 2 dl alignments I expect we’ll need to find a good heavy inside linebacker for certain matchups.

  • Ike Evans

    Im concerned about stopping the run again this year

  • Matt Manzo

    They’ve never tried Williams there, have they?

  • GoSteelerz

    Despite the missed tackle, I thought all the 2nd and 3rd team DB’s played well. There were a number of pressures and a couple sacks due to good coverage, with a couple of those coming when the QB was looking at Toler’s side of the field and couldn’t find anyone open. Ventrone played well, taking good angle to make tackles, and covering well. If we weren’t so deep at safety, he might have a shot. He still may if there is an injury somewhere. I hope they give all these guys another chance in the next game, we need to see what was legit and what was a fluke. It’s hard to get that from just one quarter of action, especially Toler, as that was his very first game action. The 2nd and 3rd string defense was pretty good overall I thought, pass rush and coverage working well together.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I don’t know. He was my first thought but at 250 he’s still at the very low end of what I would call the bigger LB’s. I don’t know if he’s bigger now but a little too small and a little too slow is a worry.

    Someone a little faster and in the 265-275 range would be ideal though if Williams can effectively play the interior run well enough in a 2 DL alignment the defense would take another step forward.