Steelers Film Room: Revisiting Jay Ajayi’s 204 Yard Rushing Game In Week 6

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi certainly ran all over the Pittsburgh Steelers defense back in Week 6 and with the Wild Card rematch just days away from taking place at Heinz Field, it’s time to review what went wrong that led to him gaining 204 yards in that October contest at Hard Rock Stadium.

In case you forgot, Ajayi had 6 runs of more than 10 yards against the Steelers back in Week 6 and those accounted for 154 of his 204 yards on the ground. We’ll revisit those 6 runs in the order that they happened and where the Steelers defense failed on each of them.

1Q 1-10-PIT 38 (11:26) (Shotgun) J.Ajayi left end pushed ob at PIT 26 for 12 yards (A.Burns).

On this first quarter shotgun counter play by the Dolphins that gained 12 yards, we see Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones get stuck inside by the tight end for starters. You’ll also see safety Robert Golden, the force defender on the play, get cracked from the outside. Whenever that happens, the outside cornerback, which in this case is rookie Artie Burns, must replace Golden as the force defender to prevent the running back from getting to the edge. Burns, as you can see below, allows himself to get sucked inside and that gives Ajayi plenty of room outside.

2Q 1-10-MIA 29 (2:47) J.Ajayi left guard to MIA 43 for 14 yards (V.Williams; R.Golden).

In the second quarter, Ajayi struck again for 14 yards on a simple counter play and one we see the Steelers offense run quite a bit. At the snap of the football, Steelers right defensive end Ricardo Mathews is initially turned inside by Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert. The weak inside linebacker on the play, Vince Williams, follows the pulling right guard all the way over to his block on right outside linebacker James Harrison and in doing so, he makes things easy on the trailing tight end. This results in a huge lane for Ajayi, who then gets more second level help thanks to the left guard’s nice block on inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. A few broken tackles later and Ajayi has a gain of 14 yards.

3Q 2-7-MIA 41 (12:34) (Shotgun) J.Ajayi left end pushed ob at PIT 39 for 20 yards (M.Mitchell).

In the third quarter, Ajayi registered his first explosive run of the game and this looks very similar to the first run I broke down in this post. Once again, Burns fails to replace a cracked force defender in Golden and the result is brutal. On top of Ajayi gaining 20 yards on the play, 15 more yards were added on to that as safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a hitting the Dolphins running back out of bounds. I’m willing to bet Burns didn’t have a fun week in the film review sessions that took place.

3Q 1-10-MIA 48 (5:10) J.Ajayi right end to PIT 19 for 33 yards (M.Mitchell).

On this third quarter explosive run by Ajayi via an outside zone play theres a lot to look at. First, watch Williams try out his best impression of fellow inside linebacker Ryan Shazier by shooting a gap behind the front side. Left defensive end Stephon Tuitt is put down on the ground and once again we see Golden cracked from the outside by a wide receiver. Cornerback Ross Cockrell is late replacing Golden and is forced to dive at that feet of Ajayi and the Dolphins running back is once again off to the second and third level pretty much untouched.

4Q 2-11-MIA 49 (6:28) (Shotgun) J.Ajayi right guard to PIT 38 for 13 yards (R.Cockrell).

The Steelers defensive was bitten again by a simple Dolphins counter play again in the fourth quarter. On this play, look at the defensive personnel on the field for the Steelers. Defensive tackle Daniel McCullers has replaced Tuitt in the nickel front and Tyler Matakevich has replaced Williams due to injuries. McCullers gets himself walled-off to the inside by the Dolphins right tackle while Matakevich is slow getting to the pulling left guard. Golden is cracked again from the outside and possibly held. While Cockrell replaced Golden and eventually made the tackle, Ajayi still manages to get 5 or 6 more yards before finally being brought down.

4Q 1-10-MIA 38 (1:01) J.Ajayi right end for 62 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

The Steelers defense got stung one final time by Ajayi late in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh down 8 points and needing a quick stop following a failed onside kick attempt. This time, another outside zone run does the Steelers defense in as outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo gets stuck inside for starters. With Timmons effectively blocked at the second level by the tight end and Mitchell and Cockrell both locked up on the edge, Golden has a shot at bringing Ajayi down just past midfield but fails to do so. 49 yards later, Ajayi is in the end zone with a 200-plus yard rushing game.

Hopefully the Steelers learned a lot from this loss when it comes to them potentially not allowing Ajayi to have a repeat performance on Sunday at Heinz Field. There’s reasons to believe we’ll see a better showing from the Steelers run defense this go-around as Williams, Chickillo, Golden, Matakevich and Arthur Moats are all unlikely to see any playing time barring injuries. Remember, Shazier didn’t play against the Dolphins in the Week 6 game and nether did rookie safety Sean Davis and outside linebacker Bud Dupree. On top of that, Burns should have learned a lot from that Week 6 loss to the Dolphins when it comes to replacing a cracked force player.

Rest assured that the Steelers offensive card team ran these same plays above all this week during practice in effort to prevent a repeat performance by Ajayi.

  • Thomas

    Almost all of these involve a non-starter (JJ, Mathews) getting pushed out of the way and then a DB being out of place or missing a tackle.

    I just don’t think this team’s defense was prepared to face a strong run team with Heyward out. This team has changed by the secondary playing at a good level and the backup DL having more experience, so I don’t think this happens again. Hopefully

  • Xclewsive

    6/154 1 TD

    That can’t happen, but Shazier, Dupree, Harrison and Davis are all playing full time and I just think it’s going to be tough sledding this time around.

  • VaDave

    Thanks for the breakdowns Dave. That would be very good game plan for our offense to adopt this go around.

  • Chris92021

    After seeing this, I have no idea why it took until the Dallas game for Jarvis Jones to be finally benched. Goodness, he lacks initial strength and he makes up for it with little football intelligence. How he constantly gets caught in the wash on one-on-one situations is flat out sad.

  • Dubb Betts

    Baffles me how he just runs into the offensive player, like dude try a spin or something

  • Dubb Betts

    Sean Davis over Golden is a huge improvement. And it doesn’t even look like Jarvis Jones is trying.
    Great Post!

  • Douglas Andrews

    All the Steelers LB’s should be ashamed of the way they played. It looked like at times they were in position to make plays and they just whiffed. Hopefully pride kicks in this game and the Steelers run D brings their “A” game. Looking at most of those GIF’s that’s where the game was lost. The D Line was already thin without Cam so i’ll give them a little pass but the LB’s and DB play was pitiful.

  • Chris92021

    Jarvis Jones plays like he’s being controlled by my 6 year old nephew on Madden on PS4.

  • joewalsh

    you’re not going to consistently stop anyones run game with only 2 defensive lineman on the field. ridiculous

  • Dubb Betts

    Your nephew would get more sacks

  • The Truth

    I am more baffled at why it took people this long to realize Jones is a below average OLB.

  • Applebite

    If I’m not mistaken here, that’s pretty much the same defense they ran against the Eagles as well…isn’t it? They have to put bigger bodies on the line and go with a base defense against them. Butler does some strange lineups with the 3-4. Sometimes, he even puts 2 LBs and 2 DLs for a faux 4-3. Hopefully, he learned something about those failures (the Eagles and Dolphins games) and have an answer to prevent games like those from occurring again.

  • Gautama Om

    You all are over worrying.I bet you Ajayi has less than or about 100 yards this game with adjustments. You can thank me later for the foresight.

    You read it here first.

  • Rusted Out

    This^. I had this scrub pegged after his rookie season. The opportunities and the sheer volume of excuses made for him over the past 4 years has been staggering. He’s been awful in every category, and has only been on the field because of his draft position.

  • Rusted Out

    I want to see more of that faux 4-3 they use. It’s been very effective against the run. I don’t care if they have to sell out… Just stop the Ajayi, and the game is in the bag!

  • Rusted Out

    As usual… Jarvis Jones is just a warm body out there. Your time is drawing near Jarvis. Get off my team!

  • stellarsfan

    I feel good about us containing the run this time around. I mean, just look at the image that heads the article, that’s 3 out of the 4 guys involved in that terrible play arent our starters today. Add in a shazier, sean davis, and the defense overall improving drastically since the middle of the year and I have confidence that we can limit these explosive plays and control the flow of the game.

    I mean honestly guys, which aspect of the game do they have an advantage in? I think our rushing attack, passing game is better than there’s respectively. I like our overall defense much more than theirs, especially with them missing key starters in the secondary. Special teams, Ill take Boz over almost any other kicker in the NFL not named Tucker. I just think we have advantages across the board and i hope we come out swinging, get an early lead and stick it to these guys.

  • Michael James

    Draft position, simple as that imho. If Jones was a 5th round pick, he would have been cut after his second year.

  • Steve

    Dave – Thanks for the Film review. Its proved why the Steelers do what they did.
    1st Gif – Jarvis don’t set the edge, Ajayi goes right around him and off to the races.
    2nd Gif – Jarvis in a three point stance to the left of Harrison. Harrison sets the edge and JJ gets blown out, tries to make an arm tackle and falls to the ground.
    3rd Gif – Jarvis again don’t set the edge, Ajayi gets around him and off to the races.
    The 1st 3 Gifs are due to JJ’s not doing his job. No wonder why he was inactive.

  • JB Burgess

    These issues haven’t been fixed, just masked. (Smoke and mirrors) It’s the scheme. Keith Butler is in over his head… I’m telling you. We just witnessed it against the Browns. These issues will continue. It wont be clear until the Steelers are bounced out of the playoffs because of trash run defense. Then people will look back and say these issues were never really addressed.

    It’s Butler’s trash scheme.

  • Steve

    How Jarvis is still on the team, baffles me.
    Cockrell is a liability in run support and so is Golden.
    4th Gif – Cockrell dives at the legs of Ajayi as he’s ran past.
    5th Gif – Cockrell wraps up Ajayi as they get another 7 yards.
    Last Gif – Cockrell puts his arm out as Ajayi runs past then Cockrell falls on the ground It’s all out there on tape, which is gone over many times by the teams. Ajayi has to be licking his chops.

  • Steve

    JB – Think your wrong. Steelers didn’t play Harrison, Tuitt, Hargrave. Will admit the Steelers didn’t have a good game defensively against the Browns. With better Dline play the run can be stopped but this has to be a priority. Butlers D is LeBeau’s same scheme, not much has changed besides the players. With competent personnel LeBeau’s scheme is sound in run support.

  • Wil Masisak

    Nice breakdown. Thank god that’s a different time and place than this week’s game. People want to talk about bad coaching being the reason for the Miami loss but those GIFs show bad execution from backup players who simply can’t get enough reps, especially in an era where there are so few padded practices. Run defense is hard– everyone has to do their jobs flawlessly. Anyway, the biggest issues for the team that lost in Miami were addressed: JJ, Chickillo, and Golden to the bench, Burns learning from his mistakes, Matakevich nowhere near the field on scrimmage downs. Our run fits have been so much better since those changes were made.

  • Sam Clonch

    Considering he failed to break 100 yards from scrimmage 10 out of 14 games, I’m with you! Definition of boom or bust player. Second time around he’s going to be a bust!

  • SilverSteel

    Wow, you must be able to see the future or something. 🙂 Of course he will not produce the same. Our D is 100% better and we just studied all the tape on our last game with him and will be focusing on stopping him. I do appreciate your foresight though…

  • SilverSteel

    No, if Jones was a 5th round pick, people would be saying we got good value and a good pick. He has been serviceable in some of the games he played in and good in others. He is a solid 2nd stringer and would probably do well at ILB. Just what you would expect from a 5th rounder. You think (light in the pants) Feeney would have done better? I doubt it highly. Both are just not built for today’s NFL OLB.

  • Yea, he didn’t look too good on those plays above. The first one is the absolute worst imo. And the last one, not that anyone else did anything worth noting, but a better angle from Jarvis would have saved a TD I think

  • sort of agree but Feeney is 10 X the athlete Jarvis is, so there is that

  • what a lightning strike that was

  • Dshoff

    Sure, Jarvis might be a liability with run defense but look at all the sacks he……..

  • Michael James

    He’s been passed on the depth chart by Moats and Chickillo, two very mediocre linebackers. Maybe he would have managed to hang around as a special teams player, but I think he would have been on the roster bubble. Many people seem to think he would do well at ILB, but that’s a completely different position. I really have my doubts about him being a better ILB than Vince Williams for example. Jarvis isn’t a better athlete than Vince, his football IQ isn’t better either and Vince is certainly the more passionate player.

  • TheHess

    JJ is not on the field for the 2nd. it’s 90, not 95.

  • Brendon Glad

    I’m really hoping that it was somewhat similar to how teams can be caught off-guard by young QB’s whom they have little film on. Ajayi had really shown very little in the 1.25 seasons up to that game. I actually cut him in both of my fantasy leagues after his “no plane trip” to Seattle 3 weeks earlier. He hadn’t shown enough to even keep him, despite Aryan Foster’s history.
    So maybe the Steelers just got caught completely off-guard…thinking they were going to see a 80/20 split pass/run…(since the Steelers secondary was really struggling at that time).
    Also, the Steelers offense had zero rhythm that day…and it got worse after Ben tore his meniscus.
    I was horrified that day at what I saw. Almost the maddest I’ve ever been after a Steeler game.

    But I will say this…there have been a few times recently where “bad losses” weren’t as bad as I made them out to be. The KC Chiefs loss last year had me pretty disgusted…but the Chiefs are playing about .800 ball since then. Miami…same way.
    I guess I tend to overreact sometimes on the negative side. But everyone knows that the Steelers do much much much better in the last 35 years when they are “being hated on”…vs when everyone is telling them how great they are. So I probably am doing them a service, even if no one on the squad sees the post and it merely is “out there in the ether”. lol

  • Joey

    Last gif, it looks like Matekevich had the inside track to tackle him, but gets jerked back before he can do anything… Anyone else seeing this?

  • The Truth

    What’s funny is the Jones’ apologists disappeared about as quickly as the Kordell lovers.

  • The Truth

    If Jones was a 5th round pick he would have been cut before the first regular season game.

    I doubt he would be a good ILB. He isn’t explosive or athletic and he is weak at the point of attack.

    Carlos Emmons was a better OLB.

  • Lil Smitty

    I think that was the play where I saw at least three or four Dolphins that could have been called for holding.

  • Nathaniel Sullivan

    The last gif? You’re expecting him to go from the right side of the defense all the way to the left? Is that what you’re saying? I agree on the first few gifs, he should get off his block and contain those plays.

  • Thomas

    #90 is Recardo Mathews (DE), #95 is Jarvis Jones (OLB). Just expanding on that.

  • Thomas

    His style of play sucks. His only pass rush move is a bull rush in which he is too weak so the OT eats him up, or a spin move to where the OT shoves him 3 yards away. Terrible player.

  • Thomas

    I know. It’s a shame we were doing those dumb schemes in the first place.