Steelers vs Panthers Film Review: DHB And Justin Brown Blocking

Under normal circumstances, it’s probably pretty unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers would carry six wide receivers on their 53-man roster. The last time they’d done so was when Arnaz Battle was signed to be a lead special teams player. If I’m not mistaken, he never even played on offense during the regular season.

But the Steelers have a couple of interesting players at the bottom of their wide receiver depth chart this year in veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey and second-year wide receiver Justin Brown, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

Specifically, they’re both bigger receivers with a more complete game, with the ability to play a variety of positions on the field.

They also possess the ability and demeanor to contribute to the offense without the ball in their hands, by blocking. The pair got a chance to show that off in the final preseason game, since both received extended playing time.

The Steelers opened the game with a three-receiver set, with Markus Wheaton, one of their under-six-foot starting receivers, taking the opening play for an end around of 15 yards. Heyward-Bey was lined up out wide on the far side of the play, where Wheaton took the ball, and you can see him blocking down on Thomas DeCoud at the end of the play.

Two plays later, we got a good look at both Heyward-Bey and Brown on the outside blocking the perimeter defenders on a carry by Will Johnson up the middle. Both receivers kept their men out of the play nicely.

Opening the second quarter, the Steelers offense was backed deep into their own territory, but in a second and two situation. Wheaton was lined up on the left side, away from the action, with Brown on the right, who came up to stick to cornerback James Dockery.

Midway through the second quarter, after recovering a fumble, a holding call pushed the Steelers back into a second and 18 situation. The Steelers were only able to muster a few yards on the ground on the play, but it’s a good example of Brown’s willingness to get into a defender’s face, angering Charles Godfrey enough to elicit a shove. It’s usually a good sign when the person you’re blocking is aggravated.

Lest we forget, a player like Brown is still far down the depth chart. Typically, that means that if he gets a helmet on game day, he’ll need to be a special teams contributor, and he showed on this punt late in the second half that he could contribute as a jammer.

As a final example, we have one last look at Heyward-Bey as a blocker. A third of the way into the third quarter, Heyward-Bey was lined up at the top of the play on a run left by running back Josh Harris. He saw safety Tom Nelson sneaking up to the line to time the snap, but he was able to intercept him and allowed Harris to reach the corner, even if he gained only two yards.

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

    Excellent post as always. Very heartening to see our receivers blocking well. The more tape that I watch though, the more terrified I am about the right side of our line. I want to trust Beach and Foster, but it seems like almost every play they get beaten or blown up altogether.

  • CEE

    Sorry, left side that is.

  • PA2AK

    1st GIF….why did Palmer go for the cut? haha had me laughing there.

  • PA2AK

    Those two actually did a decent job in the two GIF they were in above. I agree with you anyways though. Foster seems to be the biggest liability on the starting unit. His inconsistency is hard to stomach. Beachum may get beat, but he is putting in 100% of the effort every time and usually doesn’t make the mental mistake. He gets beat because he should be our first man up…not the starter.

  • PA2AK

    Glad to see some WR blocking. I hope Brown enjoys getting guys ticked off! That type of blocking and mentality (doing the work when no one is watching) will pay off big time down the road.

  • steeltown

    Excellent. This is very encouraging. Both guys are capable and willing to do the dirty work. JB really does a good job of sticking to his man. We need that because AB and Wheaton are more finesse guys and L.Moore has never been known for his blocking ability. You can see why these guys made the roster.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Agree..TE vs CB and Palmer goes for the cut. Seemed odd but it worked this time.

  • Lil Smitty

    I am glad to see receivers blocking for runs. Did you notice in the tape reviews if they were blocking for other receivers after a catch was made? Sometimes I wonder if what sells play action passes are the wide receivers? If they act as though they are setting up to run block the corners are going to look into the backfield. If the receivers just take off down he field the DBs will know it is a pass.
    I have been on this complaint about our receivers lack of blocking abilities or even attempts since the Philly debacle. Everytime I saw a long run after a catch or just a long run, there were Eagle receivers blocking our DBs. That cam make the difference from a five yard run and a twenty yard run.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Thanks, and you’re right, the left side of the offensive line did not have the best preseason. Hopefully that doesn’t translate into the games that matter.

  • Matthew Marczi

    They do block (or attempt to block) sometimes, but the Steelers do run a lot of isolated screens, or ask a tight end or tackle to get out to the edge to block. Wheaton is a guy who definitely has the willingness to block, but he’s still working on that aspect of his game. You can see him throwing a block in the fourth gif above.

  • Lil Smitty

    I have seen several plays in the preseason where someone catches the ball in space, but get swarmed under by the DBs. I realize that when Defense runs a zone scheme it is more difficult to block the defender, but at times I see three or four defenders swarming the receiver and no other Steelers around except lineman or tight ends. I thought it was a good sign to see teammates blocking for each helping to create long plays. Maybe I can’t see that because I am watching on Network, not coaches view.

  • Brendon Glad

    Excellent post. I have to admit, I had very little hope of DHB even making the roster. But he showed me something. In my opinion there are many WR’s who feel like they are “too good to block”. Sometimes that is true, because you don’t want Jerry Rice or Randy moss getting rolled-up on a running play. But when they are NOT, then it is a huge detriment, because it hurts your running game explosiveness. And sometimes even it’s effectiveness. I didn’t know DHB would be a willing blocker. Didn’t know he had drastically improved his catching ability, and his route running. I don’t watch much OAK, but I kinda had written him off as a player when I did watch them a few times. I’m proud of him. He earned his spot on the team.

  • IckyD

    If DHB happens to remember how to catch this year he could be the steal of the season.

    All reports indicate that he is running crisp routes, blocking well and generally doing what he should be so far.