By Alex Kozora
My final game notes of the 2014 preseason. Observations from the Pittsburgh Steelers 10-0 loss to the hands of the Carolina Panthers.
- First team kick coverage unit consisted of backup. Shouldn’t put much stock into it but we’ll note it anyway. The group L-R. Isaiah Green, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Josh Harris, Dan Molls, Robert Blanchflower, Shaun Suisham, Howard Jones, Arthur Moats, Stephon Houston, Dayonne Nunley. Don’t have R5 on this unit. Couldn’t see him.
- Starting defense for the home team: Cam Thomas/Steve McLendon/Brett Keisel, Arthur Moats/Jarvis Jones, Lawrence Timmons/Ryan Shazier, William Gay/Ike Taylor, Will Allen/Mike Mitchell.
- 2nd and 7, 12:33 1st. Brett Keisel with a successful bull rush of Amini Silatolu. Showed a good first step plus strength.
Derek Anderson is forced to check down and the pass winds up falling incomplete.
- The camera cuts late to the play but the Panthers’ first third down, 3rd and 7. Nickel with Stephon Tuitt at LDT and Keisel at RDT. Tuitt is the only DL with his hand down. Amoeba look.
- With Cortez Allen out, William Gay would slide to the nickel in subpackages. Antwon Blake came in at LCB.
- Though it was ruled a first down, Steve McLendon and Keisel showed a good push at the line. Lawrence Timmons came in free to make the tackle.
- Really like Jarvis Jones’ first step on this stunt that created pressure. Even if Carolina recognizes it immediately, there’s no way to stop it. The guard doesn’t have a chance to slide over and pick Jones up, letting the left tackle take care of the looping Keisel.
It forces the line to man up, the left tackle against the OLB and the LG against the RDE. End up being unable to do so and the left guard actually blocks the left tackle. Lot of pressure.
- As Matthew Marczi mentioned, the Steelers’ showed some 4-2-5 looks. Four lineman, two inside linebackers, and five in the secondary. Stephon Tuitt, Steve McLendon, Cam Thomas, and Brett Keisel.
- 3rd and 9 bubble screen to Jason Avant. Complete for a first down because of two missed tackles. Should never allow a first on a play like that.
- Love Arthur Moats’ hand placement on his bull rush, easily his best pass rushing move. Hits the inside shoulder of the tackle, generating power to knock him back. Causes the right tackle’s front toe to point downfield, no longer in a position to be able to slide.
All the lineman can do is lunge and try to have the upper body strength to push and stick to Moats. Doesn’t happen here and the OLB wins inside.
- Antwon Blake with poor technique in a couple respects. And they go hand-in-hand. Punches with the wrong hand. Uses the outside arm instead of the inside. Doesn’t open up his hips and he is very late opening up the gate. Compare him to two clearly more talented players, William Gay and Ike Taylor.
They’ve already opened up. Blake does have quick feet and the fluidity that allows him to buy himself extra time but he is trusting his skillset way too much. It’s poor form.
- Kick return unit, again, riddled with backups. Front five: Isaiah Green, Chris Carter, Dan Molls, Ross Ventrone, Arthur Moats. Ethan Hemer/Howard Jones the next two, Chris Hubbard/Rob Blanchflower the wedge, and Dayonne Nunley the upback for Lanear Sampson.
- Some house-keeping. Wesley Johnson started at center with Maurkice Pouncey and Cody Wallace out. Landry Jones started at QB. Michael Palmer got the start at tight end and Dri Archer at running back.
- End around to Markus Wheaton. Fake the dive to hold the five tech, opening up the edge. Michael Palmer with a nice cut block downfield.
- Steelers didn’t base block the five tech on the first few runs. Either kicked him out with a pulling TE or left him unblocked.
- Backfield consisting of David Paulson at FB and Will Johnson at RB.
- Two yard dig route for Martavis Bryant. Technically, it’s a nine yard throw for Landry Jones in terms of air yards but still, easy throw. It’s high and Bryant has to stretch for it.
The issue? Jones’ front leg locks up and causes the pass to sail.
That pass should never be an issue for any competent quarterback.
- 4th and 2 failed conversion by the Steelers. Michael Palmer falls off his block. Chris Hubbard lined up as a TE eligible.
- On that 4th and 2, a short yardage situation, LeGarrette Blount got the carry over Le’Veon Bell.
- Just terrific run defense by Jarvis Jones that really screwed with the Panthers’ blocking scheme. They try to run Power O. Have the TE down block and seal the ROLB with the RG pulling around.
Jones may actually be doing some more one-gapping here but nonetheless, shoots through and the tight end can’t seal him.
The right guard has no choice to pick him up. Jones collides with his inside shoulder, keeping his outside shoulder/hand free.
Reaches with his outside hand to grab the running back and make the tackle.
In one play, Jones causes the tight end to fail in his assignment, forces the guard to alter his plan, show the strength and technique to absorb the block, and make the tackle. Terrific.
- Double vice jammers to each side on the Panthers’ first punt. Green and Justin Brown to one sie, Ross Ventrone and Derek Moye to the other. Otheres: Houston, Blanchflower, Harris, Howard Jones, Moats, Molls, and Dri Archer serving as the punt returner.
- Kawann Short swims over Wesley Johnson and the rookie center falls to the ground. Clean path up the middle to pressure Landry Jones. Hard for me to fault the QB on this one when his line put him in a difficult position.
- Next play I can fault Jones though. Locks onto his first read and doesn’t lead the receiver enough. Trailing corner should have picked it off.
- Punt coverage unit: Ventrone and Brice McCain the starting gunners. Robert Golden continues to work as the upback. Rest of the line from left to right: Palmer, Moats, Molls, Bryce Davis, Blanchflower, Paulson.
- Brad Wing’s hangtimes: 4.19, 4.90, 4.60, 4.30, 4.45, 4.33, 4.61, 4.85, 4.42. Better showing this week than last, obviously. Four of the nine punts had a hangtime of 4.5 seconds or better. Two were 4.85+.
- William Gay and Blake each had breakups working in coverage against Kelvin Benjamin on the same drive.
- 1st and 10, :22 1st. Check out Kelvin Beachum in the GIF below. Watch him explode out into the flat and ram the corner into the ground on this bubble screen. That’s athleticism.
- Guy Whimper replaced Marcus Gilbert at RT to start the second quarter. Ditto for Will Simmons over David DeCastro.
- False step by Robert Blanchflower. Steps inside off the snap and can’t cut the defensive end rushing to his outside shoulder. End winds up making the tackle.
- Landry Jones first sack. Story of the night for these two. Missed T/E stunt by Guy Whimper and Will Simmons. Simmons doesn’t pick up the end looping to the inside.
- Couple of first teamers on defense were left in with the 2’s. McLendon and Jarvis Jones.
- 10:40 left before the half. Stephon Tuitt shedding the RG and RB on the same play. Quick, active hands.
- Second-team nickel defense. Tuitt/Josh Mauro, Moats/Jarvis Jones, Terence Garvin/Vince Williams, Antwon Blake/Isaiah Green with Brice McCain in the slot (he played RCB in base) and Shamarko Thomas/Robert Golden.
- Fernando Velasco caught Jarvis Jones behind on his fumble return. Never forget that.
- 2nd team OL, left to right. Mike Adams, Chris Hubbard, Welsey Johnson, Will Simmons, Guy Whimper.
- Zone block but Chris Hubbard lets his man win to the inside. Play nearly gets blown up though Archer is able to weave his way through traffic for a gain of two.
- McCain’s injury occurred with 4:55 left in the second. Dayonne Nunley replaced him in the slot.
- 3rd and 13. Cover 2 man but Isaiah Green acts as the safety. Shamarko Thomas plays RCB. Play trail technique, stick to the inside hip of the receiver.
- Landry Jones’ curl to Heyward-Bey. The ball isn’t out until Heyward-Bey is nearly turned to the QB, out of his break. Hard to see in the pictures below, unfortunately. Ball needs to come out sooner. Will get jumped by starting DBs.
- Same play. Failed cut block attempt by Dri Archer. If I’m a defensive coordinator and I see him in the backfield, I’m blitzing a linebacker. Force him to show he can pick up the blitz or get your QB killed.
- One of the next plays. Archer trying to pass protect, I guess. Has his head down, not seeing what he hits. It’s super (in)effective.
- 3rd and 18 late in the half. Steelers have one timeout left. Justin Brown catches a curl at the Panthers’ 45. Instead of correctly getting upfield for as many yards as he can, he runs laterally and makes it out of bounds around the 45. Mental mistake.