Watch: Why The Steelers’ Run Defense Struggled

Back at it talking to the tape. While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary breakdowns have been the main topic for several weeks, Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals showcased issues against the run. Today, we’re breaking down some of those issues. It wasn’t all just about getting beat up at the LOS. Box count and alignment problems highlight the woes we look at.

As always, leave a comment below with your thoughts on what went wrong.

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.

  • falconsaftey43

    Good breakdown Alex. Really shows how hard it can be to defend the run. I’d guess they were trying to keep the safeties back more because of all the explosive TDs given up lately and AJ Green.And we saw what happened when they had a single high safety, Golden jumped the over route and AJ got a TD…except for the holding.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Nice breakdown Alex. I have some observations and questions for you.

    1. On that last play it looks to me like that is a play Dupree has a chance to make in the backfield but he hesitates and lets it get through. So could it be that the scheme kind of allows him that oppurtunity to make the play and he just didn’t execute or would you still say the scheme just leaves itself open to those because of Williams being moved to the outside?

    Just curious because in the first example you gave of that same formation the linemen actually comes out and blocks Dupree and in the 2nd one he doesn’t. So it appears that Butler was 50/50 on scheming it right if Dupree can make the play there.

    2. On the 2nd play in your video I am curious how you would grade Matekevich. As you said it was a 6 on 6 box and Kroft gets his block on him and in my mind Red does a good job of moving outside to move the runner in and then getting back across Kroft to make the tackle. Problem is, it is still a good gain. So is there something more Matekevich could have done or do you think he executed about as well as possible and the even box was going to cost them no matter what?

  • Uncle Rico.

    First play is a gap exchange between Tuitt and Williams, and Williams wrong shoulders it. Davis should have been there to clean it up.

    Second, nickel D. And the defense has been surprisingly exceptional in nickel run defense this season. Perhaps this is where they really miss shazier.

    Last two, I assume Butler married that look to man coverage. Steelers had issues early with the TEs down the seams and over the middle. And against playaction. And in preseason when Shazier was out all of the remaining ILBs sucked versus play action. Butler tried to fix that then by playing more man coverage where one ILB was free to be aggressive attacking the RB run or pass because he also had man coverage on the back. And the other ILB playing off more manning the TE.

  • Steelers12

    this has nothing to do with your breakdown but why was Sensabaugh falling down so much? he looked totally outmatched and shows why i think its not out the realm of possibility to draft another CB in rounds 1-3 even if Haden is kept

  • Steeler Nation!

    Always a matter of picking your poison. As LeBeau would say, “He who is trying to stop everything, stops nothing”. I would expect against the Ravens we will play more run-stop friendly fronts and make Flacco beat us with his arm. I know we need our OLBs to get off and beat the OTs with speed, but some of that could be helped with quicker recognition and redirection on runs. When the tackle is zoning away, a light could come on.

  • falconsaftey43

    My takes.
    1) Dupree looks like he thinks he has to contain the QB incase he keeps it, I don’t know if he did have that assignment, but that’s what I think he’s doing.

    2) I think Matakevich did about as well as he could with the defense called. Only other thing he could have really done is attack the LOS harder/faster so that it all happens a little closer to the LOS, but it’s still going to be at least 5-6 yards IMO.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    In part, the wet grass/turf was to blame. That doesn’t excuse everything that happened, but it was certainly part of it. It was raining for most of the game.

  • kdubs412

    I definitely thought it was more likely than not that Haden would be cut next season to save money. Now, based on he good he looked when he was in there and how much worse his replacements have looked, it feels like they really have to keep him around for at least one more season.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Everyone assumes it will be Brady that will challenge this defense in Week 15, but I’m just as uneasy about their crop of running backs in Lewis, Burkhead, and White. Especially check-downs and screens if the Steelers are intent on dropping into coverage.

  • Bryant Eng

    Two Words: Over Look – god I hate this Alex, why does Butler always use it?!?!?!

  • Tasso222222

    Nice work Alex. Appreciate the objective analysis and digging into the details. Very insightful. Material like this is the best of what of Steelers depot has to offer

  • treeher

    Last play, Dupree really whiffed it. Surprised Alex didn’t comment on that.

  • Mark

    Our OLB have to do a better job of closing down the C gap. Both Bud and TJ are creating huge gaps for easy cut back runs. They must push the blocker to the inside while keeping their outside shoulders free. Too much looping outside.

  • Conserv_58

    Pray that Cam Sutton doesn’t remind us of Sensabaugh and that Mike Mitchell finishes the game.

  • falconsaftey43

    did he wiff or does he have contain responsibility on the QB? It is a read-option look. Take a look at the play, if Dalton keeps it and Dupree had crashed down on the RB, there is wide open space for Dalton to run. I think Dupree may have been in a lose-lose there.

  • Steelers12

    Damn cap money getting tight

  • Steelers12

    But he seemed to be only one it affected

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah Dupree pulls up but he’s gotta respect the ability for Dalton to take the ball and run. If he keeps crashing, eventually the Bengals just pull it. That’s a tough spot to be in. Especially when the RB has a huge runway and can burst upfield immediately. Doesn’t have to slow down to read anything or wait for a block. Can just go.

    Tough for me to blame Matakevich on that one. He’s just trying to force it inside. If he goes in, Mixon bounces it out and he loses.

  • Alex Kozora

    Sensabaugh played the run well. Just not the pass….

  • Alex Kozora


  • Jim Foles

    Maybe because Dupree ran past the run play and RB 4 times in a row. Maybe wait and watch the ball for a second.

  • Sdale

    Good catch Falcon. I didn’t see that either until you pointed it out. In looking at that particular scheme, I’m curious why they have the ILB cheated (and flowing to) the same side as the Dline if run fitting. It would seem like the only way that could be defended is to have the ILB flow to the side opposite of where the Dline is flowing to cover the obvious hole that is left there. Both Red and Forte did the same thing. Maybe it’s just inexperience, but it it’s scheme, it doesn’t make sense to me.

  • #beatthepats

    Agree, if they use this bogus 2-4 front belichek will double te run all day,controll the clock. Bud dupree is not a good football player – sorry. Easily pushed out on play 1 , overunning ballcarrier and doesnt challenge the tackle with physicality like watt. Without shazier its deebo time, there just not physicall enough at the line of scrimmage- its maddening. The run lanes look like alabama vs southern kentucky. How can you justify dupree and maketevich on the field , and hargrave and alualu sitting.

  • Steve

    Alex – In these Gifs, Tuitt (91) took himself right out of the play. Tuitt does this alot. This is the issue with Tuitt guessing, not the secondary. Tuitt had a terrible game IMO.

  • Steve

    Really – Look at the Dline – Terrible play by Tuitt in all the Gifs.

  • Steve

    Probably had one too many the night before.

  • Michael James

    Coaching matters.

  • GravityWon

    Good breakown.

    I don’t recall a lot of penetration from the D lineman to disrupt the offense. Will watch a 2nd time to specifically watch for that. I don’t know if they are being coached to read and hold 2 gaps. I personally would prefer a more aggressive approach and knock the O linemen backwards.

  • will

    And therefore Brady will kill them.

  • Steve

    Watch Tuitt in the last Gif – #66 ate his lunch.

  • Alex Kozora

    I don’t think it’s him guessing. It’s him one-gapping and being responsible for his gap.

  • Steve

    Did you look at the last GIf and see how far Tuitt was blown out? We played the same D as the Steelers did and Tuitt’s read is the back to the nearest inside. Tuitt’s guessing.

  • Brian Visnosky

    On that first play it looks like Davis is cutting the RB off and turning him back inside. If he gets outside of Davis there, it’s a huge gain.

  • Manny Carulla

    Are you even listening to what he says? 4:40 “In these zone runs, the goal of the running back is to always make the defense wrong. So no mater where (the D line) goes, (the RB) just goes the opposite. (RB) just away from (the D line). (RB) find that bubble.” As for the last play, watch the the right tackle. He’s shifting left. the run was designed to go left. If you watch Heyward on that play he blows up his man, getting penetration and redirects the RB the other way. He lucked out and had a lane. If you want to put this on anyone it should Dupree. He should have shifted with the line and put himself in position to make the play. Dupree had to honor the play-fake and rightfully stayed keyed in on the QB. But he could have done that and shifted to be in better position to stop the run. Tuitt did his job. If #65 had blocked Heyward better, Tuitt would been able make the tackle.

  • John Pennington

    Burns just going thru the motions out there.Sad for a corner.Needs to be benched and draft his replacement and make him a backup or just let him go.Will cost this team a big game and its coming.

  • treeher

    Fair enough, I saw that too, but he has the athleticism to make the play and I thought he could have done better.

  • treeher

    Yeah, it must be scheme, either that or bad guessing. I do like the fact that we’re finally covering the tight end.