Tomlin Talks Man-Coverage, Play Of Starting Cornerbacks Against Browns

The Pittsburgh Steelers debuted their newly rebuilt secondary in their 2017 Sunday regular season opener against the Cleveland Browns and it featured new cornerback Joe Haden playing opposite second-year cornerback Artie Burns. Both players played quite a bit of man-coverage against the Browns and during his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked to assess the performance of both Haden and Burns in those situations.

“In regards to man coverage, I thought both guys were above the line,” Tomlin said of his two starting cornerbacks. “We’ll just continue to work with those guy. Much like you talk about a rush plan being multiple, a coverage plan has to be multiple. I know a lot has been written and said about our desire to increase our man-coverage, but it’s not like we’re just solely going to jump into man-coverage bed. We just want to have a full suite of weapons to throw at you in terms of the things that we’re capable of doing and man is just part of it.”

While Sunday was Haden’s first game with the Steelers, Pro Football Focus wasn’t quite impressed with his play against his former team as they issued him a grade of 51.4 out of a possible 100. Here is what they wrote about Haden on Monday:

Haden’s first game in a new uniform coincidentally came against his former team. While he broke up a pass early on, the rest of his outing was average at best. He didn’t give up any major plays, but did allow six catches for 80 yards and a 106.3 passer rating into his coverage.

Haden finished the game with six total tackles and that included a sack. He also was credited with one defensed pass on Sunday.

So, what did Tomlin think about Haden’s play against the Browns?

“Joe did a nice job, he fit in quickly, he learned what to do,” Tomlin said. “We had a good day, collectively. It’s tough to point to the addition of one man that’s here a week in terms of producing seven sacks and things of that nature. He did produce one sack, because we brought him and he got the sack.”

The Steelers defense did indeed produce seven sacks Sunday against the Browns and since then the talk has been mostly centered around whether those quarterback take-downs were a result of a good pass rush, solid coverage, or both.

“As always, our pressure, or our coverage, they work hand in hand In some instances,” Tomlin said Tuesday on the topic. “We sacked them because we were applying pressure, meaning bringing more than four, and in some instances, we sacked them even bringing three and those can be attributed to coverage. But that’s no different than we normally function. It has to be a mix. I think too much of any makes you predictable and when you’re predictable, you can be attacked. We look to find a mix and bring four and three and five-plus and I thought the game reflected that.

Tomlin was also glad to see his defense not give up too many explosive plays to the Browns offense.

“I thought we did an awesome job of minimizing big plays,” Tomlin said. “If you keep the ball in front of you, you’ve got a chance. We largely did that.”

In case you’re keeping score, the Browns offense registered four plays of 20 yards or more on Sunday. Two of those happened on deep passes of more than 15 yards past the original line of scrimmage. One of those, a 23-yard completion from Browns rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer to wide receiver Corey Coleman, came with Haden in coverage on the right side of the field.

The Steelers will now begin to prepare to play the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Heinz Field and judging by what happened in their Monday night win over the New Orleans Saints, Haden, Burns and the rest of the Pittsburgh defense will likely be tested quite a bit via the pass. Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford completed 27 of his 32 total pass attempts for 346 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints in a 29-19 home win.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Correct me if I’m wrong. I believe I saw them line up 3 deep safeties against the browns Mitchel, Wilcox and Davis each occupying a third of the field. I’ve never seen that formation from any team before. It wasn’t a prevent situation either. If I remember correctly there were 2 down lineman, 2 olbs, Shazier in the middle and 3 cb (Burns, Gay, Joe) What do you think about that?

  • nutty32

    So Tomlin thought Haden played above the line and PFF thought he played below the line. Hmmm.
    Remember when the Bills DT used to complain that PFF graded him poorly for being blown off the line, when in fact his assignment was to belly back and contain off tackle in Rex Ryan’s scheme. Hmmm

  • hdogg48

    I like the idea of playing different man schemes early to work
    out the kinks.

    It was a good start against a rookie QB without elite weapons
    and an offense not known for their explosiveness.

    They need to quit being predictable and learn to disguise their looks

  • CountryClub

    The Vikings looked good. But, they were home and playing against a poor D. I imagine it’ll be a little different this week.

  • hdogg48

    They hit on a lot of screens and short passes
    where the first NO defender missed a lot of tackles.

    They seemed like they were attacking the outside.

    Their D played bend don’t break. Brees left a lot
    of points out there by not converting in the Red Zone.

    I’m hoping for continued Red Zone success and
    hitting on a splash play or two…I’m looking
    at you Martavis.

  • That would be a dime package (6 DBs).

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    With 3 safeties deep? That’s new to me.

  • Sam Clonch

    In June PFF rated the Cleveland OL as #2 in the league for 2017.

  • Edjhjr

    I’m not expecting the real steelers until week 3-4

  • Steve Johnson

    Haden played above the line? Hmm! I think him and Artie were above average, still plenty of work to do.

  • Steve Johnson

    Hmm! The pass Defense will have to play better, I think the Pass Rush will be able to disrupt Bradford. Bradford isn’t nearly as mobile as Kizer.

  • Michael Conrad

    What if Sunday was the real Steelers ? Last year is last year. They could be 2 and 4 or 1 and 5 if the real Steelers don’t show up soon. Coaches and players. 3 out of five on the road . All teams have capable QB’s . Good running games and passing games plus the defenses are good. Only the Bears lost on Sunday to Atlanta.

    I say preseason is over and its time to step it up. Next five games will shape the season.

  • Any package with 5 DBs is nickle, any package with 6 DBs is a dime package, 7 DBs is quarter package but that is not to be confused with the quarters zone coverage which is the outside corners and 2 safeties are each responsible for a quarter of the field.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I guess the extra safety is just in a different spot than normal. I’ve just never seen that before.

  • Edjhjr

    Ya I agree. They looked like they were in a practice scrimmage for the 1st 2 quarters.

  • razaard2

    Yes that true. But their defense remains absurdly talented. They are basically a pro bowl squad. Stars everywhere. We need to step up. It will be a fun game

  • WilliamSekinger

    Hayden wasn’t super special, but of course he didn’t need to be. Even his poor performance -vs- the Browns was light years ahead of what they’ve had the last few years at the position. I am hoping he settles in and has better games in the near future.

  • Robert E Lil

    In my opinion – Hayden’s best play was one where he actually got beat for a 20 plus yd pass play.

    It was a pump fake and go – Kizer gave a Roethlisberger-esque pump fake (it’s awesome to watch strong qbs do that) and the receiver bolted up the sideline. Hayden played the game – pretended to bite on the pump and quickly turned his hips and got down the field. He was in perfect position for a pick. But the pass ended up going back shoulder – it was just an awesome completion on Kizer’s part.
    Thing is, that play showed the veteran in Hayden and the athleticism. Hayden was baiting the qb to throw the ball up top. Hayden had the speed to beat the receiver down the field too. He’s an awesome corner. Steelers made a fantastic move in getting him.

  • Talyn Scarbrough

    That’s the one where The safety was supposed to cover the deep pass over the head of haden. Instead The safety bit on the pump fake by kizer. That completion wasn’t on Haden. Safety was supposed to cover it.

  • Robert E Lil

    Yup. That’s the one. Safety over the top
    I just loved what I saw from Haden right there. Total vet. He was hunting for a pick. Man I’ve missed that in our secondary.

  • CP72

    Let’s hope that’s true!!

  • Steelsmoke

    They need time to work as a unit in the secondary. We have the pieces just have to stay healthy. D line and olb looking good. Hope they keep mixing it up

  • Jordan James

    Ben doesn’t pump fake that often anymore. He used to do it every play.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    No disrespect to the Browns.. but as a rebuilding team with a rookie quarterback starting his first game.. really more like a 5th preseason game.

    The Vikings are a totally different animal and have an offense, a QB and everything. Really the first look we’ll get of how good this team is.

  • Jason Dock Dudley

    PFF s pure football fiction. PFF also graded Chickilo as the worst starting OLB on Sunday. I wish writers and legit sports analyst would leave PFF out as a source of information They are crappy and I do not know how they became a trusted source.