Tag Archives: Film

Steelers 2012 Highlight Film Review: Uphold The Tradition

I don’t know about all Steeler fans out there, but one reason I get pumped this time of the year is due to the arrival on various stations of all of NFL Films’ team highlight films. Growing up I couldn’t wait for the day the VHS tape (yeah I am that old!) was released so [...]...

Source: Steelers Gab

Steelers 2012 Season Chronicled In Highlight Film

The story of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season was retold today when the team unveiled its annual season highlight film, “Uphold the Tradition,” at a special screening at Heinz Field. The film, w......

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

Steelers Film Breakdown: The unsung and under-appreciated Ramon Foster


Source: Behind the Steel Curtain - All Posts

Steelers Film Breakdown: Still Waiting on Ziggy Hood


Source: Behind the Steel Curtain - All Posts

Steelers 2011 Season Chronicled In Highlight Film Titled, “Heart”

The story of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 season was retold today when the team unveiled its annual season highlight film, “Heart,” at a special screening at Heinz Field. The film, which premiered ...

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

Week 5 Film Review: The Steelers Strike Back Against Tennessee


No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.

Maybe it was the re-signing of OT Max Starks in the days leading up to the Steelers' emphatic 38-17 thrashing of Tennessee. Maybe it was the the offensive game plan that included less five and seven step drops for eventual AFC Offensive Player of the Week Ben Roethlisberger (24-for-34, 228 yards, 5 touchdowns) and more rushes (171 yards on the ground).

It was, most likely, a combination of all of those things, but the result was perhaps the Steelers' best all around performance of the season.

Chris Johnson

The first play of the game, Titans RB Chris Johnson takes a zone sweep aimed at exploiting OLB Lawrence Timmons (in for the injured James Harrison) off the left side for 20 yards. The same feeling of helplessness on the ground overtook all of us watching.

Johnson managed 31 yards on his next 13 carries (2.3 yards per carry), extending his career total against Pittsburgh to 61 carries for 211 yards (3.4 yards per carry), never having rushed for more than 69 yards.

While the Steelers defense would be run on a bit more as the season progressed, it was after Johnson's initial carry in Week 5 a real change from how the defense started playing happened. With the exception of Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew's 96-yard effort in Week 6, the Steelers weren't gouged by any one particular back the rest of the way (including stuffing Baltimore's Ray Rice to 43 yards in the re-match against the Ravens).

Against Tennessee, they were without Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith; a look the defensive line would have to get used to for the remainder of the season. NT Chris Hoke played an outstanding game in Hampton's place, getting low and knifing through a talented Titans offensive line to stifle their running game.

Goal Line Stand

The Titans' opening drive was full of penalties and misfires on both teams, and while it seems the norm is offenses eventually putting the ball in the end zone if given several opportunities, that wasn't the case against Tennessee. The Titans had, essentially, two touchdown passes dropped and couldn't convert a Steelers penalty into anything more than three points.

The Steelers defense became what would eventually become the league's best scoring defense in this game, even on this drive. Outstanding plays by Ike Taylor and Lawrence Timmons bottled Johnson up for a four yard loss, was outshined by LaMarr Woodley pushing his blocker into Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck and taking both of them down for a sack. SS Troy Polamalu slips past a blocker on a well-timed screen pass to take Johnson down on 3rd and 12 to force the field goal.

There was some sloppy play in this game early, but it produced a few of the best defensive plays of the season. All told, the Titans went 89 yards on 13 plays in their opening drive, and were held to 217 yards on their next 57 plays.


WR Antonio Brown took the opening kickoff 52 yards, and the Steelers never looked back. Roethlisberger, hampered by a sprain and bone bruise in his right foot, kept the passes short, leading to two important factors; the beginning of the Antonio Brown Emergence in 2011 and the last two touchdown passes WR Hines Ward would ever catch.

With RB Rashard Mendenhall out with a hamstring injury, the Steelers didn't have great success running the ball early, but Roethlisberger was peppering passes to the non-Mike Wallace receivers (targets to Brown, Ward, David Johnson and Weslye Saunders on the opening drive). While the running game would come around, the offensive line gets a large amount of credit for Roethlisberger's performance in the sense it was not as disastrous of a game for that unit as Week 4 at Houston was. However, Roethlisberger did not hold onto the ball nearly as long against Tennessee and was decisive in his throws. Credit is due to the offensive line, but in review, the one sack allowed seemed more the effect of shorter patterns and quicker releases.

And for all Isaac Redman fans (who are often anti-Mendenhall fans), Redman spun through the hole on a carry in the first quarter. Just sayin'...

The opening drive ends so perfectly. Ward is split wide to Roethlisberger's left, in the slot, with an empty backfield. Roethlisberger drops five, looks at Ward, which draws the middle of the Titans zone over a step. He turns back and fires at perfect pass to TE Heath Miller, who falls forward for the score.

Six different Steelers had catches or were targeted on that drive - Saunders, Wallace Redman, Johnson, Brown and Miller. They ran double-tight, they ran five wide, they converted screen passes, they converted pass down the seam. Tennessee really had no idea what to expect.

And all of this without one pattern run longer than 11 yards.

The Steelers get away from this philosophy a bit against Jacksonville in Week 6, largely due to the extreme match-up advantage Wallace had against any Jaguars defender, but a blustery day in Pittsburgh held that plan at bay. They would, however, ramp it up in wins over Arizona and New England, as the Steelers produced their best offensive performances during this time.

And it all started, ironically, due to Roethlisberger's injured foot.

New Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley will look at the opening drive of this game in his film evaluation of this team in 2011, and he'll wonder why the Steelers didn't utilize the team's depth at receiver a bit more throughout the year.

In other words, he'll wonder exactly what we've wondered for a few months now.

The Value of Play Action

The offense would continue to roll. After a perfectly executed fake punt throw from P Dan Sepulveda to FS Ryan Mundy, the Steelers continued to apply a short, controlled approach to their offense.

I remember writing after this game the value of all those 1-yard carries, not as a means of scoring on each play, but rather, setting up the play-action.

Redman has 15 yards on six carries at this point. Brown just rattled off a 10-yard carry on first down, giving the Steelers the ball at Tennessee's 7-yard line. Roethlisberger sells a good play-action, and doesn't even need to look at Ward. It's a quick, smooth catch-and-release throw to a wide open Ward for the score.

Titans 3-and-out, RB Jonathan Dwyer cracks off a 76-yard run, off a perfect block by LG Doug Legursky. Redman picks up nine yards on three carries, down to Tennessee's 1-yard line.

Play action, touchdown pass to Johnson. 21-3, the route is on, and every single Steelers offensive player who's been on the field has been involved in some way. Excellent all-around execution in one of the best overall performances the Steelers offense would put up all season.

The cherry on top was the Steelers gave notice to their future opponents loading the box to stop the run or keeping safeties close to the line to cut off underneath routes would come with a consequence. Wallace torches the Titans secondary for a 40-yard touchdown that came after the Steelers ran twice for four yards on first and second down.

Woodley announced his four-game funk to start the season was over, marking the beginning of a streak that, had he not suffered a hamstring injury in Week 9, would have put him in contention for Defensive Player of the year (1.5 sacks and an interception against Tennessee, the first of four consecutive games with more than one sack). Roethlisberger was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week and the Steelers rushed for 176 yards in the win.

They just don't get much more dominant than that.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Week 4 Film Review: An Emerging Power in the AFC Takes Down Champs


No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.

The Steelers, for better or worse, have been a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) kind of team over the last several years. Outside of the standard few anomalies, one could review the stats of any given game and have a pretty good chance of picking the winner and a good approximation of the score.

Pittsburgh's Week 4 17-10 loss at Houston was one of those anomalies. Statistically, it looked close. The score said it was close.

It just never felt close. Upon further review, this game, more than any other in the 2011 season, shows how our preconceived notions affect our objective viewing and ultimately, our opinions. The lessons learned? Penalties are the great equalizers, and don't ever count the Steelers out.

It was to be Houston's signature game. Hosting the defending AFC Champions, the Texans looked poised to take their first division crown, and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

ESPN The Magazine was on hand doing a big feature issue on everything involved with game day in the NFL, and it was the perfect game for them to pick. Every year, it seems there is an inter-conference showdown between the chased and the chaser.

In the interest of full disclosure, I loved this Texans team. I love the way they played the game. I write that in past tense because, as the intro to this article suggests, no team is the same year in and year out. This Texans squad, though, had all the makings of a champion, and this game was pivotal in their maturation from also-ran to contender.

The Target Tattooed on the Steelers' Backs

The fans of the Steelers brawl with fans of the Ravens, Bengals and Browns all the time. They all hate the Steelers and get particularly fired up for each of the two games their team plays against Pittsburgh. Their arch rival is Pittsburgh. The Steelers only get one arch rival, and it doesn't even matter who it is. They are the arch rival of basically every team they play.

Each year, they have an out-of-division game like this, and it's a true measuring stick of where the Steelers are at that point in time, and usually, we can trace back their ultimate success or failure to this kind of a game.

In 2010, it was the all-out whipping of Oakland in the worst officiated game ever played. That set the tone for the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl. In 2008, it was the win against Dallas (a game they had no business winning if not for sheer resiliency).

Early in Week 4, we'd see a clear picture of how the Steelers would respond to direct and adverse competition with the league's best.

The Opening Drive

If the Ravens' victory over Pittsburgh in Week 1 can be described as a catharsis, the Texans first drive against the Steelers should be described as "dominance."

I don't recall an offense putting as savage a beating on any Steelers defense in recent memory. I couldn't help but slink deep in my couch and numbly accept all the barbs of the Steelers being too old, and being past their prime.

As a fan of pure football, it was a thing of beauty. I'd love to ask Texans fans if they'd ever had a drive so efficient, so physical and so brutally dominant as that one.

Houston overcame two holding penalties to go 82 yards on 19 plays, chewing up 10:22 off the clock. Some of the holes the Texans offensive line created were worthy of their resumes.

The Steelers' defensive line was flat-out owned. It was depressing to watch. Despite getting completely dominated, though, the Steelers re-grouped as the game went on, and only surrendered another 10 points.

If you would have bet me $ 100 after that first drive the Texans would only have two more scoring drives, I would have taken it and forced you to go to an ATM immediately to get my money. Maybe it was simply the experience the Steelers' defense had. Age has its advantages. They had seen it all. Maybe not to that extent, but as the game drove on, the defensive front seven (behind James Harrison, who played an outstanding game), held their ground when it didn't appear they had any ability to do so.

Arian Foster

Crazy thing was, he was just back from a hamstring injury that held him out of the first two games of the year, and had 10 carries going into Week 4.

An injury to Ben Tate gave Foster probably way more carries than he was supposed to. All told, he had 30 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. Just a warrior's effort. Impossible not to respect him after that.

What sets Foster apart (and makes him, I believe, the best running back in the game) is a combination of his vision and his feet. No one has a better combination of those two critical traits for a running back. The Texans' zone running is better than anyone else's, and Foster is perfectly built for that offense.

Granted, many of his runs were through holes large enough to drive a semi through, he often made six yards out of nothing. You don't have 19-play touchdown drives without being able to run the ball at a high level.

The Steelers were gashed a bit on the ground more often than in recent years, but none quite as impressively as Foster's performance. It was a slap in the face, and one the Steelers would learn from as the year progressed.

Offensive Line Reaches a New Low

The hope in this series wasn't to solely point out the sieve-like ability of the Steelers' offensive line. It just happens to be a main focus of the first quarter of the season.

All the credit in the world to Texans' defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and probably the best coached defense in the AFC in 2011, but this could have been the worst pass protection game by a Steelers offensive line in Roethlisberger's career.

With Jonathan Scott on the bench, LT Trai Essex provided little reason to feel positive about pass protection from the left tackle position, and LG Chris Kemoeatu would find himself on the bench the following week. Phillips noticed that early as well, and he made pressure rain all over the offensive left side of the formation.

The Steelers' opening series was a lesson in dysfunction. After a 15-yard penalty on Mike Wallace, who was jawing with Houston's sideline after a nice 22-yard catch-and-run, and a 10-yard short catch-and-run by Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers looked to be establishing some rhythm.

Until, of course, they weren't.

On first down, Roethlisberger drops five, and fires to the short seam, where TE David Johnson is neither in a position to make a catch, nor is he looking for the ball. Roethlisberger had to release it, because Kemoeatu lunges for DE Antonio Smith on the line, grabbing nothing but jersey. Smith would have buried Roethlisberger if he held the ball any longer (side note, a graphic flashes on the screen of how the Steelers were -9 in turnover differential. It's the first quarter of Week 4).

Second down, the Steelers look to exploit the hard-charging Texans' defensive front with a screen pass. Roethlisberger is nearly sacked, and throws the ball in the area where RB Rashard Mendenhall should be. He is not, because he has his shoulder in ROLB Mario Williams after RG Ramon Foster didn't even come close to reaching Williams on a pull. The ball falls harmlessly incomplete. Neither Williams, nor ILB Brian Cushing, were blocked in any way.

Third down, at the snap, Kemoeatu is whipped off the line again by Smith, who forces Roethlisberger to cut off his drop and step up to avoid him. He's met immediately by OLB Conor Barwin, who took one step to his left, which was too much for Essex to handle. Barwin forces a fumble, which is also recovers.

There's a penalty for illegal contact on Houston, which appears to be a bogus call, considering the Texans dropped into a deep zone, and no defender is tight on a receiver five yards from the line of scrimmage. The Steelers get bailed out on a phantom call (they didn't even put a jersey number with the penalty).

Automatic first down. Next play, Kemoeatu thanking his lucky stars Smith is taken out for the play, replaced by seldom-used Tim Jamison. The result is the same, as Jamison shoves Kemoeatu - who's horrendously late out of his stance, never a good thing when you're pulling on the play - deep into the backfield, and is hit by Mendenhall, the ball carrier, four yards in the backfield. The play goes for a yard loss.

Roethlisberger gets crushed by CB Daniel Manning on the next play, forcing an incomplete deep pass to Jerricho Cotchery. Not sure how the Steelers could have thought a deep pass could work in this series, considering the amount of pressure they were facing.

On third down, it's J.J. Watt coming off the offensive left edge, barely touched, for the sack.

Let's summarize the last six plays: Incomplete pass (hurried), incomplete pass (hurried), sack/fumble (recovered by Houston) overturned on a mysterious penalty, blown running play (1 yard loss), incomplete pass (hurried) and sack.

Moving Forward

Credit to the Steelers, they managed to regroup and play some competitive football, particularly in the second half, but a slew of ill-timed Texans penalties and the inconsistencies that often plague a team on the verge of Super Bowl contention held them back just enough to give the Steelers the ball with a chance to tie the game late.

But the Steelers offense, particularly their pass protection broke down again at the end, leading to Roethlisberger's one official turnover of the day.

We would see sweeping changes the following week, as this Week 4 loss triggered a huge offensive uptick during the team's subsequent four-game winning streak.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Week 3 Film Review: Big Play Focus Leads To Wallace TD, Three Turnovers


No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.

No win in 2011 - or in many other seasons, for that matter - was celebrated as a loss the way the Steelers' 23-20 (OT) win at Indianapolis was. Winning their second consecutive game after a brutal start at Baltimore was secondary to the pains in which it took to dispatch the hapless Colts, even if primetime road games are the toughest to win.

Of the Steelers' five total losses, two of them were road primetime games and one was a primetime home game. Perhaps that's why I'm now classically conditioned to feel ill at ease every time I hear the Football Night in America music.

This game more than any other signified the team's shift toward deep passing, and as I mentioned in the Week 2 version of this story, how mediocre pass protection hindered that goal.

Offensive Intentions Obvious From the Start

The Steelers' first 13 plays were scripted to set up the 14th. QB Ben Roethlisberger was 4-for-8 for 75 yards on his first eight throws, and RB Rashard Mendenhall had four yards on his first five carries. The Steelers led 3-0 when they trotted to the line on 2nd-and-5 from their 19-yard line. In double-tight, WR Mike Wallace and Hines Ward are split left, with Wallace flanking Ward's outside.

Roethlisberger sells the play fake, which doesn't fool second-year CB David Caldwell. He's simply overmatched by Wallace, who runs a deep post, and creates three yards of separation.

The protection is perfect, Roethlisberger has no time stepping into his throw and delivering a perfect strike to Wallace about 47 yards down the field. It hits him in stride, and Wallace races from Indianapolis' 32 yard line into the end zone. It's an 81-yard touchdown pass, and could be the finest play the Steelers had run in 2011.

Lemme highlight the key factor here; the protection was perfect. Amazing, considering the scheme had RG Doug Legursky pull right to sell the play fake, leaving DE Dwight Freeney on TE David Johnson in a 1-on-1 situation. Freeney busted in, but with a rare clean pocket, Roethlisberger was able to move a little and buy himself the time he needed to make the deep throw.

It would be the last time the Steelers' offensive line would get away with such a risk. It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying, however.

Jonathan Scott the Scapegoat

After the Wallace touchdown, Roethlisberger took seven-step drops on nearly every pass attempt he made for the rest of the game. He checked down often, with three of his 11 passes going for two yards or less.

The Steelers next four series went thusly: sack and fumble recovered by Indianapolis (led to a field goal, 10-3 Steelers), sack and fumble recovered by Indianapolis and returned for a touchdown (10-10), Roethlisberger deep interception (led to a field goal, 13-10 Indianapolis), Roethlisberger kneels out the half.

That's three turnovers leading to 13 Indianapolis points, and a kneel-down. Roethlisberger was 9-for-11 passing on the final four drives of the half, with two fumbles (losing both) and an interception.

Colts DE Robert Mathis had the first strip-sack, taking RT Marcus Gilbert around the pocket to knock the ball free outside the left hash. Gilbert ultimately takes the blame, although it speaks more to Mathis's motor, and Roethlisberger's lack of awareness. He pumped a pass, and after doing so, keeps the ball outside his body and looks behind to his left. Mathis is inside Roethlisberger's right (ball) side, and slaps it away.

Freeney's sack comes on 2nd-and-10 inside Indianapolis territory. The play appears to be a quick slant to Wallace, who's on the right side of the formation. Scott takes a quick drop and turns his body outward, largely suggesting the quarterback is not taking a deep drop. Gilbert maintains more discipline on the right side, but he didn't block for a deep drop, either.

Keeping Roethlisberger's drop short is probably a good idea, considering the heat the Colts edge rushers are bringing. Roethlisberger drops two quick steps, pumps a pass to Wallace (who's clearly expecting the ball), then drops a few more steps. Scott doesn't see this, and Freeney simply goes off Scott's outside shoulder (Scott is in no position to stop this), and Freeney tees off Roethlisberger, who was drawing his arm back to throw.

TE Heath Miller, on the left side, runs a four-yard pattern, and takes a blocking stance. Clearly, the play was meant to go right side short, but even with what appeared to be Roethlisberger ad-libbing the play, Scott's form is poor, and gives the edge to one of the best edge rushers the game has ever seen.

Scott deserves blame (holding and illegal formation penalties in this game as well), but the overarching point is the offense is simply not on the same page, and it nearly cost them the game.

Steelers OT Max Starks was signed not even two weeks after this game, and replaced Scott just a few days after joining the team.

Ike Taylor's over-aggressiveness

James Farrior's shot on Collins knocked him out of the game on the Colts' final drive of the third quarter with the game tied at 13. Enter Curtis Painter.

On a 3rd-and-4, Painter is looking to WR Pierre Garcon on his right side. Garcon runs a hitch-and-go, starting at the first down marker. Taylor bites on Garcon's movement badly, even without as much as a pump from Painter.

Taylor is an excellent cornerback with very good coverage skills. What makes Taylor good at what he does is his aggressiveness. As we saw in Week 3, and especially in the AFC Wild Card loss at Denver, Taylor's aggressiveness is also his worst enemy. It caused him to lose sight of Demaryius Thomas multiple times in regulation. Instead of defending the man, his eyes got wide at the thought of QB Tim Tebow lofting one of his patented ducks. Thomas slipped behind him for a few big gains during regulation.

Plain and simple, Painter completely blew the throw, and it should have been 20-13 Indianapolis at this point. Instead, the Colts punted back to the Steelers in a tie game.

Don't think for a second the Broncos didn't watch this game when making their game plan to face the Steelers in the playoffs.

Harrison and Woodley

Week 3 would be the last time Steelers OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley played together for a full game at 100 percent. And through the Colts' first drive of the second half, they had one QB pressure between them on 23 Kerry Collins pass attempts.

That would soon change against Indianapolis, but the lack of consistent pressure on the passer dogged the Steelers' defense all year. There were times Harrison took over the game (Week 9 vs. Baltimore) and there were times Woodley took over the game (Week 8 vs. New England), but it never clicked for both of them in the same game.

Harrison does what the Steelers' offense had failed to do since the first quarter. He made a play that resulted in a touchdown. Forcing a fumble off a sack of Painter, Polamalu returns it for a touchdown. It was a rare forced turnover for the Steelers, who only had 15 takeaways all year. This was a big one, giving the Steelers a lead they'd need at the end of the game.

The suddenly effective Curtis Painter drove the Colts down for a game-tying touchdown at the end of the fourth quarter, but the Steelers won it in OT, as Shaun Suisham hit the field goal he should have hit in regulation.

Problems with the kicking game continued most of the year, as Suisham had one of the lowest field goal percentages in football.

A win may be a win, but this game was wrought with mental and physical mistakes, setting up a showdown with emerging AFC power Houston the following week.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

Week 2 Film Review: First Roethlisberger Injury Occurs During Wallace’s Day of Dominance

*** Discuss this article and more at our Pittsburgh Steelers forum ***


No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.

The hit QB Ben Roethlisberger took from Seahawks DE Raheem Brock drew both a 15-yard penalty flag and a $ 15,000 fine from the league (a "Fline"), but in the long run, it was one of many hits the mobile quarterback took that ultimately wore him down to the point of ineffectiveness.

It just didn't really stop him, or the Steelers' defense, from kicking the tar out of Seattle.

The Steelers shut out the Seahawks in their second consecutive game since defeating them in Super Bowl XL. It was a 21-0 win in Week 5 of the 2007 season the first time, and this time, it was 24-0, and the Seahawks, led by QB Tarvaris Jackson, failed to cross midfield until the fourth quarter.

Wallace v. Browner

The Steelers led 14-0 late in the second quarter - plenty cushion for a defense that allowed just 164 total yards on the day - when Brock hit Roethlisberger low. He returned to the game to finish off a field goal-scoring drive.

How healthy was he, though? At the end of the third quarter, the Steelers went five wide, with Wallace on the line between Hines Ward and Heath Miller. The Seahawks come out in man coverage, hoping the pass rush can get to Roethlisberger before the speedy Wallace can get down field.

It almost worked. Roethlisberger took a (legal) shot just after he launched a deep pass for Wallace, who burned Browner off the line, held up, then burned him again as he adjusted for the throw, which was off the mark by quite a bit.

Wallace makes a sensational catch on a poorly thrown pass for a 53-yard gain. Incidentally, I choked when I saw Brandon Browner in the Pro Bowl at the end of last season. I'm not sure I can recall a cornerback as overmatched as Browner was in this game. I didn't see the rest of his season, but wow...he was awful in Week 2.

It wasn't that Roethlisberger's injured knee affected the throw, but it was a clear example of the numerous opportunities the Steelers had in 2011 to get Wallace the ball in a position to be able to run after the catch, but for many reasons (in this case, taking a shot to the chops), they weren't able to connect.

It wasn't the same play, but Wallace had to adjust to a poorly thrown Roethlisberger pass against Denver in the AFC Wild Card playoff game in January. Wallace was unable to maintain possession of that one.

For a team to base its offense heavily around the idea of getting the ball deep down the field, the inability to sustain pass protection long enough for Roethlisberger to step into his throws, and the additional hits he took outside the pocket, eventually would make that deep option far less successful, albeit dangerous.

This play in Week 2 worked, but the frequency of these kinds of plays early in the year would lead to Wallace's diminished production and Roethlisberger's multiple injuries down the stretch.

Goal Line Futility

After a (brutal) pass interference call against Browner, the Steelers had first and goal on Seattle's 1-yard line. Enter Doug Legursky as a blocking fullback. First carry, RB Rashard Mendenhall, behind the motioning TE David Johnson, no gain. FS Earl Thomas knifes in to make the play.

They've got approximately 570 pounds in the backfield to block, and another 225 from Mendenhall. Thomas weighs maybe 200 pounds. No one got a hat on him.

Second down, same formation, but they run play action out of it. TE Weslye Saunders blocks his man inside, leaving S Atari Bigby free to sack Roethlisberger for a 7-yard loss. The blame probably falls on RT Marcus Gilbert, who should kick down and cut the angle off for the free rusher, but he pushed too far inside, and couldn't get back to stop Bigby.

Another misfire in the red zone.

Third down, another pass, Seattle blankets every Steelers receiver. Roethlisberger scrambles, and is taken down inside the 1-yard line. Every receiver the Steelers had on the play ran a quick route, turned, didn't see the ball and stopped. That was another problem with the team's overall red zone struggles. While I don't know the play call or the specific intentions of it, it appears the call was essentially a quick-hit throw by Roethlisberger, and if nothing was there, he was to run it. But Roethlisberger ran away from his receivers, and none of them followed him. He nearly gets across the goal line, but Seattle made another tough stop.

The Steelers elect to go for it on fourth down, and in comes the heavy package again, and again, the run off left guard behind Johnson and Legursky. Again, no one prevents Thomas from knifing in and making a play. Legursky missed him in the hole, and Mendenhall had no chance.

Credit the Seahawks, who had a very strong defensive team in 2011, but the Steelers had 1st and goal from their 1-yard line, gained nothing and walked off the field without any points. I liked the decision to go for it, but the execution was poor, setting the tone for a season of disappointment inside the 20.

Don't Forget 43

The series after the Steelers' goal line SNAFU, Steelers SS Troy Polamalu forces a 3-and-out almost single-handedly. On first down, Seattle tries to scrape him with TE Zack Miller while running a flare to RB Marshawn Lynch. Polamalu isn't fooled, and pushes Lynch out of bounds for a 1-yard gain. They try to run away from Polamalu on second down, but he chases Lynch down from 12 yards away for a 1-yard loss. Third down, Polamalu lines up on the offensive left side, and chases Lynch down again, this time for a 1-yard gain.

Polamalu, top to bottom, played brilliantly in 2011. He had a few gaffes in coverage (we'll get to those in this series), but he was so crucial for this team in run support, the year would have ended much worse if he wasn't out there.

He made the splash plays in 2010, which was the biggest reason why he was named Defensive Player of the Year (the defensive player with the most splash plays, not the best all-around body of work, wins that award now, just ask Terrell Suggs). Polamalu made less splash plays, but was more important to the defense in 2011. That first possession, and others that season, are evidence to it.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Week 1 Film Review: The Good, The Bad and The Mostly Ugly in Ravens’ 35-7 Win Over Steelers


No team is the same from one year to the next, but one can learn about where a team is going by studying where it has been. We've watched each Steelers game last year play-by-play and pulled out a certain amount of trend-setting and trend-extending plays that earned the Steelers both a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff loss. We'll highlight what each of those plays meant from a bigger picture perspective on the season that was in 2011.

This was arguably the most overwhelmed the Steelers have ever been. It's tough to blame anything but preparation, but even perfect preparation can sometimes be too little. Baltimore had every single bit of motivation working for them in this game; coming off a playoff loss in January, 2011, a game in which they, frankly, blew their chance to finally get past Pittsburgh in the post-season.

Their frustration stewed for an entire offseason before the catharsis we witnessed in Week 1.

The Ravens were said to have brought in consultants to help draw up a game plan in which to be able to beat the Steelers. Whatever it was, the game plan was essentially to remove Casey Hampton from the run defensive effort.

Stretch Zone Running

Baltimore's first offensive play, Ray Rice ran a zone sweep to the Steelers' left side. Zone running consists of the offensive line moving as one in one direction, pushing defenders to varying levels, with a deep handoff to the running back, who looks for an opening, as opposed to running to a predetermined spot.

RG Marshal Yanda took Hampton out at the legs, who, in turn, fell into RDE Brett Keisel's legs. LDE Aaron Smith, LB Lawrence Timmons and LB LaMarr Woodley were all lost in the wash created by Hampton's and Keisel's sprawling, massive bodies. LB James Farrior was swallowed up by LT Bryant McKinnie, and LB James Harrison and SS Troy Polamalu were setting the edge, as they're supposed to, waiting for the pursuing linebackers to make a play on the ball carrier.

With them stuck in no man's land, and FS Ryan Clark missing the tackle 11 yards down the field, Rice cruised through the hole for a 36-yard gain on the game's first offensive snap.

This is a scheme several Steelers' opponents would use against them throughout the year.

Baltimore had always been a smashmouth power running football team, and their strategy to attack the discipline of the Steelers defense couldn't have worked better on that play, or in this game. The key to defending a zone running team is staying in line with the play. Interestingly, Houston, the best zone running team in football, had large amounts of success running the same scheme against Pittsburgh in Week 4 (a 17-10 win) and in the playoffs against Baltimore (a 20-13 loss).

The Identification of Bryant McFadden

Two plays after Rice's game-opening run, the Ravens went for the throat. Catching the Steelers in a Cover 1 (one deep safety, in this case, Clark), Baltimore sends Lee Evans and Anquan Boldin on fly routes, with TE Ed Dickson running down the seam. RBs Vonta Leach and Ray Rice release short to pin the linebackers in, suggesting they're really looking for Dickson matched up with SS Troy Polamalu. QB Joe Flacco doesn't look anywhere but Boldin, and throws the first of a few passes that seem to be becoming his signature; dropped into the receivers hands at his hip, and away from the sideline.

You might remember those passes; Torrey Smith caught one to beat Pittsburgh in the re-match, and Evans dropped one in the playoffs against New England.

It's a well-thrown pass, one that CB Bryant McFadden just missed in coverage. Boldin bobbled it, but held on and managed to get his feet in bounds.

The cameras immediately flash to Ravens coach John Harbaugh talking excitedly to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The topic of that conversation is unknown, but considering they go after McFadden again on the next two passing plays, it's fair to say he said something to the effect of "keep isolating 20 and go after him."

Or, the same thing QB Aaron Rodgers said to then-Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in Super Bowl XLV.

It was the beginning of the end of McFadden in a starting role.

Red Zone Offense

It certainly wasn't a game in which we can glean vast amounts of information on the Steelers' performance in the red zone. They were barely ever in there. The one time they were, however, their ability to control the line of scrimmage waned.

After two runs by RB Rashard Mendenhall for 12 yards, respectively (moving the Steelers from the 22 to the 10), the Steelers ran twice more, losing five yards. Roethlisberger hit Emmanuel Sanders for nine yards, and threw incomplete to Mendenhall.

He then hit Sanders for an 11-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 11.

Obviously, points are great, and aren't prejudiced against the method in which they are scored. But Mendenhall had been running well to that point (when the game was still in question), and the inconsistency of blocking and the lack of emphasis on succeeding up front would be a main headline for the Steelers in 2011.


The Steelers struggled against the run at times in 2011, highlighted mostly by Week 1 against Baltimore, Week 4 against Houston and in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against Denver. It's not a coincidence they represent three of the Steelers' five losses last season.

McFadden is probably seen as a goat in this loss, but the lack of deep help due to the scheme (you can blame Clark, but he's never been asked to cover the deep secondary sideline to sideline without help) put a huge amount of pressure on him. It would eventually lead to his demotion, and the Steelers taking on a Cover 2 look often through the year.

The team's lack of consistency in running the ball is something they'll look to address this offseason. This game isn't the best example due to the lopsided score (mostly in the second half), but the offense largely stalled inside the 20 on their lone scoring drive, requiring a 3rd-and-11 pass to seldom-used Sanders touchdown reception to avoid the field goal.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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