Steelers vs Giants – First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations upon reviewing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason opening loss to the New York Giants on Saturday night, beginning with the first half of the game.

  • Dick LeBeau brought the blitz early. William Gay blitzes over the left edge and helps hurry a first-down throw.
  • Sean Spence making an instant impact. Makes the tackle on second down and draws a pressure on third down. His nose for the ball certainly seems to be intact.
  • Steelers employ vice jammers against the Giants’ first punt return but still can’t free up Dri Archer. Brice McCain shades the near-side gunner out of bounds but Shamarko Thomas can’t follow him back inbounds.
  • Ramon Foster allows penetration on first down, but Le’Veon Bell shakes out of the tackle. Thanks to a strong block by Marcus Gilbert, Bell is able to keep fighting for nine yards.
  • Matt Spaeth takes on Jason Pierre-Paul on second down and opens the lane for another strong run from Bell.
  • Steelers go from 13/22 personnel, depending on what you want to consider Will Johnson, to 11 after the first down, with Archer, Bell, and Heath Miller all lined up in an empty set. Archer goes for 46.
  • I don’t know how smart a play the pass to Lance Moore on third down was, but the coverage had a lot to do with that one being unsuccessful. Timed pass, and the corner prevented the receiver from being where he should have been.
  • We’ve already analyzed the Rashad Jennings  touchdown, but I can see why Lawrence Timmons would be willing to get on himself despite the fact that he was held—nay, yanked—out of the play by the pulling guard. Though at the same time, if Cameron Heyward hadn’t been driven out of his gap, Timmons would have had a narrower angle to work with. The angle got too wide and the guard was able to stick him.
  • It was also the right play for the Steelers’ alignment.
  • Hopefully the Steelers’ next opponent will actually want to get a look at their kickoff coverage.
  • Lots of single receiver sets. Johnson and Antonio Brown do a nice job of splitting Antrel Rolle for an easy short reception.
  • As I mentioned in my article yesterday, Justin Brown gets some early playing time midway through the first quarter with Markus Wheaton taking a breather. Shows willingness to get his nose dirty as a blocker and tussling with the defensive backs.
  • Chris Hubbard did a good job initially on a block a few plays later, but quickly fell off, allowing LeGarrette Blount to be swallowed by a sea of blue.
  • The Steelers didn’t use much play action last year, but they also weren’t very successful when they did run it. Bruce Gradkowski goes play action on second down, and Rolle blows up Miller for a loss of one on a play you have to tip your cap on. To be fair, however, you could see pre-snap that his assignment was to shadow the tight end. Athleticism and mobility allow him to get there in a hurry.
  • Miller can win a lot of one-on-one matchups, but not when the difference maker is speed.
  • The first punt for Brad Wing is a solid one, but a sign of things to come with that big backward bounce. It cuts back on touchbacks, but as we will later see, it can hurt too.
  • Another play we’ve already looked at. Jarvis Jones shows strength with an inside punch to the left tackle and closes for a sack. Again, however, it needs to be noted that he was playing against a backup left tackle with Will Beatty out.
  • Jason Worilds does an excellent job of holding the point of the attack on second down and makes the primary tackle near the line of scrimmage.
  • He gets double teamed on the next snap, but Spence comes around the edge to clean up the play, which was a third and long. Mike Mitchell also makes his presence felt by flying in late with a shoulder-first jam on the back as he goes to the ground.
  • Thomas not overly encouraging as a jammer thus far. He was a decent gunner a year ago, however.
  • Wouldn’t you like to see Greg Warren play the way Zak DeOssie does?
  • Second-teamers now fully in place. As mentioned, more often than not, Justin Brown goes to the slot with three receivers. Not much good to say about the second-team’s first possession.
  • Both Mike Adams and Guy Whimper get steamrolled on third and 15. Gradkowski has no chance.
  • Great hang time on Wing’s second punt, but it doesn’t even reach the 20. Thomas, again, a better gunner than jammer. Even Warren got down the field that time.
  • Cam Thomas controls the center and makes the tackle after a short gain.
  • McCain gets a late grip on his gunner, allows Archer to at least have a chance of moving around, but he still only gets four yards.
  • Poor showing by Tauren Poole on his first snap in pass protection. He gets caught leaning and can’t recover. His man gets the sack.
  • Spaeth misses his block on the move on the next play and Jordan Hall is tackled for a loss.
  • The camera man was far more optimistic about Wing’s third punt than he should have been. You know what I mean if you watched the game.
  • Second-team defense now in. Hebron Fangupo is the first reserve in at nose tackle. Brian Arnfelt not in yet, but Spence remains in. Makes the first play.
  • Josh Mauro, second-team right defensive end, holds the point of attack, sheds and pursues. But Thomas already came screaming in for the tackle.
  • Safety blitz from Robert Golden. The back fails to pick it up, forcing a rushed throw. Giants settle for a field goal.
  • Adams began to fare better with the Giant’s backups in.
  • Either Justin Brown ran the wrong route or Gradkowski just overthrew him, but I think I lean toward the latter.
  • Adams got away with a facemask on Wheaton’s 28-yard reception.
  • Johnson lining up everywhere, this time in the slot. Wide open, but the pass is a little behind him and against his momentum. Not a good throw, but still a pass you’d like to see him catch. Hubbard poor showing on this play.
  • Overthrow to Spaeth and then a miss. I see nothing unusual about the hold from Wing.
  • Spence out, Terence Garvin now in. Mauro’s motor can’t be questioned, at least.
  • Cam Thomas with Mauro as the second-team defensive line in subpackages. Arthur Moats makes a good play in front of the sticks in coverage.
  • Fangupo stood strong at first on the third and short play that followed, but eventually was turned. Ethan Hemer blown back, easy conversion on the ground.
  • Chris Carter bites on a play action that frees the tight end in open space to pick up a nice chunk on the next play.
  • Cam Thomas with another good shed to make the tackle. Also opened a lane for Vince Williams, who missed the initial tackle. Maybe the criticism of Thomas can slow down for now until we see more of him in a Steelers uniform.
  • “Mauro Motors” is both a car dealership based on Connecticut and a true statement.
  • Hard to tell, but it seems Antwon Blake slipped in coverage. Golden came up from deep safety to minimize the damage.
  • Carter shows great burst and quickness toward the end of the half, wrapping up the quarterback as he throws.
  • Garvin with strong coverage on a tall tight end down the seam, helps break up the ball.
  • Almost as if just to prove that he can do it, the coaches finish the half running Archer up the middle on two draws for nine yards.

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

    I know it was only one preseason game, but im far less concerned about Cam Thomas, he looked pretty fluid moving down the line making some stops. I’m a little less worried about the DL depth now. I am however concerned with the OL depth, Whimper looked worse than he did last year not a good sign from a veteran player, Hubbard looked overwhelmed and Browning doesn’t have practice squad eligibility. Im really pulling for Wes Johnson to prove capable and Elkins

  • cp72

    There was a play in the second half where he stacked and shed the center and made the tackle. Looked very powerful. Thought he had a good game. Looks like a nice addition.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    I am still concerned that he is too slow to play DE, but I really liked what I saw from him at NT, which is exactly what I expected going into the game.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    The reserve OL though… like you said, wow they are bad.

  • joed32

    He won’t give you a pass rush but he’s solid against the run. When Tuitt takes over Thomas will proved good depth and rotational value. He easily replaces Woods in that capacity.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Hopefully he and McCullers can combine to be a nice Jumbo/Goal Line package at some point.

  • joed32

    Like that idea!