Steelers Film Room: Rams Sack Breakdown

We had last week off from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sack breakdown. But the St. Louis Rams kept us plenty busy this week with four forced on Sunday.

1. 1st and 10, :54 2nd. 11 personnel. Steelers keep seven into block versus a six man rush. Basically a max protect against a blitz-heavy pre-snap look with eight possible defenders. The Rams do only rush that six, meaning the Steelers are “safe” and there is no need for a hot read.

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Steelers actually have no issue identifying and picking up defenders. There’s no unblocked rushers and that’s a great place to start with any protection. Now it just becomes about winning your individual matchup. Unfortunately, Kelvin Beachum fails to do that here. Linebacker Alec Ogletree bull rushes him, getting into his frame. Beachum fails to create space between him and the defender. That’s a crucial element of pass blocking – just check out Heath Miller doing that to Chris Long on the other side.

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Without space, you can’t get your arms extended. You don’t have power and you’re put on skates. That’s what happens to Beachum and he gets taken into the pocket while Ogletree sheds and sacks Ben Roethlisberger.

There’s no chance for Ben to do anything here, either. It’s a three vertical concept and there isn’t enough time for the routes to develop.

Blame: Kelvin Beachum

2. 1st and 10, 6:18 3rd. 11 personnel. Five blocking against a five man rush. Aaron Donald is lined up to Cody Wallace’s outside shoulder pre-snap but hops inside off the ball. Wallace is forced to try and mirror but simply lacks the lateral quickness and plays it with poor technique – a dubious combination.

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He doesn’t slide to the midpoint of the defender but desperately tries to lunge into Donald, sapping himself of all power and making him an easy target to run through. Donald predictably wins cleanly to bring Ben down.

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This is exactly where you miss having Maurkice Pouncey. We laud Wallace for being the gritty guy who is a technician. He is gritty but in pass protection, a sub-par technician.

Blame: Cody Wallace

3. 2nd and 18, 5:35 3rd. 11 personnel. Five to block a five man rush. This is the Roethlisberger injury. I can tell you what happened on this play, but I struggle to tell you what I think should’ve happened.

It’s five on five but Mark Barron blitzes in as an unblocked defender off the defense’s right side. You don’t like to see free rushers when you have even numbers. Barron trips and falls into Roethlisberger, knocking him out of the game and at least the next month.

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I struggle to determine where the blame should be assigned. Beachum and Foster are asked to defend three players, an impossible task so it’s unfair to blame either of them. They take the most likely and biggest pass rushing threats. If anything, they did their job just fine.

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Roethlisberger doesn’t check that side off the snap. Meaning, I wouldn’t think Roethlisberger is responsible for the safety, throwing hot if Barron blitzes.

Which leaves us with Cody Wallace. Is this supposed to be a slide protection to the left, enabling the Steelers to pick up the overload side while David DeCastro is responsible for Donald and Marcus Gilbert the RT? DeCastro does seem to slide that way off the ball but to counter that, it’s not surprising considering there was no one else in his gap.

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Ultimately, I can’t say with a lot of confidence. I will put it on Wallace because I believe he should have slid down the line to the overload side. But it’s up for debate.

Blame: Cody Wallace

4. 2nd and 10, 15:00 4th. 13 personnel. Eight men into block against a five man rush. Half-hearted playaction with Michael Vick who fakes right (the running back goes the other way) and then has to reset his feet given that he’s a left-handed quarterback.

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Rams run a corner blitz off the Steelers’ left side that Beachum picks up. Robert Quinn spikes hard inside into the A gap. Ramon Foster sets to his left and is forced to try and mirror inside against Quinn. Like Wallace earlier, Foster has trouble sliding as Quinn swims over.

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Foster opens his inside hip, giving Quinn a clear path to the QB. He strips Vick and Le’Veon Bell luckily falls onto the football.

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Blame: Ramon Foster

For the record, though there technically is a fifth sack, it came when Vick was running out of bounds for no gain. Officially counted as a sack but there’s not actually any blame to be given here. So I will not count it.

Sack Counter (Game):

Cody Wallace: 2
Kelvin Beachum: 1
Ramon Foster: 1

Sack Counter (Season):

Cody Wallace: 3
Kelvin Beachum: 2
Ramon Foster: 1

Penalty Counter (Game):

Kelvin Beachum: 2
Cody Wallace: 1

Penalty Counter (Season):

Kelvin Beachum: 5
Cody Wallace: 3
Ramon Foster: 1
Marcus Gilbert: 1

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Herbert morgan

    Fernando Velasco anyone? Why not have him instead of boykin…he played on Pounceys level..

  • Cols714

    It’s tough to get mad at the OL here. Wallace was the weak link and the Rams DL is so good. Gotta give Donald and Quinn the blame for these sacks.

  • srdan

    huh? You’re kidding right?

  • srdan

    We played a good front. They have first rounders and we have a bunch of good guys playing together for a while. It went as expected, too bad Ben was teh casualty.

    I’m a little bummed about Beach’s season. He just doesn’t look the same to me. He is not playing with the tenacity I’m use to seeing. Whatever it is hope he shakes it off. Usually players excel during their contract years, but he seems to have stepped back. I’m not even talking about the penalites and sacks, his body language seems different. I wonder if he is bummed about not getting a contract.

  • John Pennington

    Wallace and Beachum where the weak links.Beachum got beatup all day like the one play when he got knocked back into Ben and Wallace just doesn’t have the foot work to slide over.The steelers need to bring in another center or Vick will get killed.Beachum is not a tackle move him back to guard and get a real tackle by draft or waiver but do something and start bring in good players and let these guys go who don’t cut it.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    That’s what I’m thinking. I bet thought he was getting an extension and when he didn’t he was taken back by it.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’m going to disagree here, Alex. If Wallace slides, than Donald has a clear shot up the middle if he chose to. It was a great Defensive design. This won’t be popular, but I place the blame on Ben here. He should have recognized the overload. He took a shotgun snap, then took a 3 step drop and went through his progression. Too much time holding the ball. He should’ve recognized the overload and hit a hot read.

  • PittsburghSports

    I’m gonna petition for an external review of the Roethlisberger injury sack lol. Even if Wallace was able to slide, pick up Foster’s guy, and Foster was quick enough to hand him off and pick up Baron, which in a million years he would never have done, it was still a protection breakdown and an impossible task. I thought in slide protection the 1st man uncovered starts the slide? Wallace is not uncovered. Last year you had a Defensive Scheme/Coverage category, and that’s where I’d put the blame, or put it on Ben. Bell is right there in the slot. Motion him over. Motion Heath over to the other side. Ben scans the overload before the snap, but looks the other way after the snap. You can see Beachum pointing it out at least twice. Wouldn’t you be looking to see if that Safety blitzes to see if Bell and AB are open? He looks the other way at Wheaton instead, and by the time he scans back to them, he doesn’t even see Baron at his knees.

  • cencalsteeler

    Srdan. I feel Beachums success at the tackle position has been muddied by him having help out there. We saw alot help from Miller, Spaeth, rb’s, WJ and even a little splash of Mike Adams, too. Now that he’s out there on an island without much help, he’s being exposed much more without the help. Another reason stats are so skewed.

  • cencalsteeler

    Yes. Cody’s sack count needs an * or it should be removed, lol.

  • PittsburghSports

    Ok, another petition being filed. You’re not gonna blame Vick for unnecessarily running out of the pocket and out of bounds, when there was a 3-man rush vs a 6-man protection? Then Vick fumbles the ball lol. C’mon he can’t escape blame on that play. it was all on him. Gimme an upvote if you agree!

    Sack Counter (Game):

    Kelvin Beachum: 1
    Cody Wallace: 1
    Ramon Foster: 1
    Defensive Scheme/Coverage: 1
    Vick: 1

    Sack Counter (Season):

    Kelvin Beachum: 2
    Cody Wallace: 2
    Ramon Foster: 1
    Defensive Scheme/Coverage: 1
    Vick: 1

  • PittsburghSports

    DeCastro looked like an average player against Donald too. The only guy that could handle Donald was Marcus Gilbert.

  • Herbert morgan

    No..certainly would be an upgrade over Wallace..POUNCEY IS OVERRATED!

  • srdan

    Herbert, I think you woke up too early today. Maybe take a nap and get it together.

  • Alex Kozora

    To bip whatever crazy argument is going to be born out of this, Velasco was signed by the Panthers.

  • Herbert morgan

    Alright, I’ll give u he’s not on Pounceys level.. But, much better,and not stiff like Wallace.

  • Alex Kozora

    I didn’t count it because it’s not even a sack. Just a player being chased out of bounds for no gain. If he gets an inch beyond the LOS, it doesn’t even go down in the books as a sack.

  • Alex Kozora

    Like I said, it’s tough to assign. I said it’s up for debate. But it’s hard for me to believe Ben was that oblivious to the overload. He never even checks it off the snap. Reading into that, that has to mean he thinks he’s “safe” and won’t have an unblocked defender. Which makes me want to put the blame on someone on the line.

    Wallace isn’t starting the slide. DeCastro would. He’s first uncovered.

  • Herbert morgan

    Well Alex, guess the steelers knew something not to bring him back, when he was available. thought he did an admiral job for us, given the circumstances..

  • PittsburghSports

    It would’ve taken a miracle for the Steelers to execute the blocking properly. Wallace would’ve needed to stay put, pass Donald off to Decastro, wait for Foster to pass off Quinn, and then Foster would’ve needed to slide back and pick up Baron. Just look where Quinn is compared to Wallace at the snap. It doesn’t look like Foster is looking to pass him off either, or even looks at the Baron/Ogletree stunt. Even if Wallace executed, there’s no way Foster would’ve had the quickness to pick up Baron. The fact Ben thinks he’s safe to the overload should be a fault as well.

  • hojo

    Maybe this is why the Steelers took a wait and see approach with Beachum’s contract extension.

  • Alex Kozora

    You don’t even get a chance to make it work though. If that would have happened and you just got beat, then sure, I’d be more open to putting it on just a nice defensive scheme. But I try to stay away from that blame unless there is no other idea/explanation I can have.

    Like I said, to blame Ben you have to say the idea of only having 2 to match 3 never crossed his mind. I find that a little hard to believe for an 11 year QB who is on top of his game.

  • NW86

    It can happen though. There’s an 11 year QB in New York that told his RB not to score because he thought the other team was out of timeouts. 😉

    BTW, I’m not arguing, that comment just made me think of Eli. If I was forced to give an opinion though, I wouldn’t want to place blame on someone when it wasn’t clear. I would have just given credit to the defensive scheme.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Donald is the best interior lineman in the NFL. I thought DeCastro did a pretty good job on him.

  • Alex Kozora

    I mean, it’s certainly possible Ben just screwed up. I’m not denying there’s no chance of that. But when it comes down to a backup center or an 11 year QB in such an obvious situation, my inclination is to go to the center. I don’t want to use the defensive scheme as a cop out. That’s not what it’s there for. I mainly use that for coverage sacks and when there is some brilliant scheme where I can’t possible find fault in any of the offensive players.

  • PittsburghSports

    I totally see your point. Maybe if Wallace’s presence was felt by Foster, Foster would’ve easily slid over to block Baron. I just think Ben was starting to struggle those last 2 drives as Greg Williams defense gained momentum. The offense as a whole was going downhill. The INT the drive before. Beachum was self destructing. Wallace got beat for the sack the play before. I get the point that Wallace should have at least looked in that direction, but I think Ben looking for Wheaton was the wrong read. AB and Bell were open, and if he looked that way he’d have seen Baron and got rid of it quicker.

  • PittsburghSports

    But what if he was a yard less? 2… 3 yards less? Where do you draw the line? A sack is a sack.

  • Alex Kozora

    A sack is when a player clearly hasn’t given up on the play. And occurs inbounds.

  • Steve

    Foster and Wallace both stink. Both need to take a hike and left someone else play.

  • Steve

    May be why the Steelers didn’t sign him. Ali may be the future OL in his place. Both are about the same age and Ali may have a higher arrow than Beach.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the OL dissection. We need more of this. In the 1st set of Gifs, if Beachs man didn’t get the sack, Millers would have.

  • PittsburghSports

    DeCastro graded out as (-1.9) by PFF for the day. I would not use the word pretty good.

  • Alex Kozora

    I think it’s totally possible to block, or at least reroute/deter those three. When you see that overload, you know they’re not all rushing on the edge. They’d run into each other, hit the same gap. Someone is spiking inside, which is what Quinn winds up doing.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s not, but trying to block it is better than not blocking it at all. And if Ben thinks it is going to be unblocked, you better get your eyes to that side off the ball to see if all three come. I just think that’d be an incredibly stupid play from Ben if he just ignored the potential of a blindside hit when there isn’t even going to be an open receiver.

  • Rob S.

    You could blame the fifth one on Vick for leaving a clean pocket and not throwing the ball away

  • dennisdoubleday

    Your point being that PFF grades are infallible?

  • PittsburghSports

    Never said that, but it’s definitely not the opposite. Donald looks to be the best there is, but my original comment was that Pro Bowl hopeful, DeCastro, looked average. I think his grade reflects that.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Not necessarily. You would have to compare it to how others performed against Donald. If it comes to -3, then DeCastro did better.

  • PittsburghSports

    Well, Foster had a (+0.6) and Wallace had a (-3.3), and they were credited with giving up 1 and 2 sacks respectively, according to Alex. DeCastro’s struggles appeared to be mostly in the run game. Donald graded out with a (+3.9). I watched the game 3 times now, but haven’t focused in solely on Donald, so hard to say for sure with my opinion.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Bwahaha…..PFF just gave Aaron Rodgers a -0.8 (that’s negative, folks) for his 5 TD performance last night. They even felt the need to write a post explaining how this utterly absurd result was justified.

  • PittsburghSports

    lol yeah I just read that. utterly ridiculous. Still does nothing to change my opinion of how the Steelers offensive line played. Wallace sucked, Beachum, Foster and DeCastro sucked a little less than that, and Gilbert was the best.