A Look At The Fine Line Between Success And Disaster

Behind the Steel Curtain AFC Championship Game Content

AFC Champs - Time To Celebrate
Troy Polamalu Delivers In Biggest Game Of Year
Game Notes Part 1
Game Notes Part 2
Fun Stats & Facts
Film Review: Special Teams
Film Review: Fine Line Between Success and Failure

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Let's take a look at a 1st down play in the 3rd quarter of Sunday's 23-14 AFCCG victory by the Steelers this past Sunday. I go through the effort of capturing the stills of this play to highlight how small a margin of error there is in the National Football League between a successful play and an unmitigated disaster.

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In the opening frame, we see Ben setting up play action. Darnell Stapleton is highlighted, and we see him pulling to his left from his Guard position to help sell the run but to also pick up a pass rushing Ravens defender. As you can see, so far so good for the offensive line across the board.

Let's see what happens next

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Oh no. Darnell has overstepped where he needed to be, lunging too far too his left and not forcing the Ravens defender (Terrell Suggs) to beat him on the outside, which obviously would have been the desired way to direct him so as to lengthen the amount of time it took to get to QB Ben Roethlisberger. We can already tell that by over running by just a half a step, Stape is off balance and easy to push out of the way by the pass rusher who has ducked inside.

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Ben is now toast. Obviously it's too late for Ben to circle back the other way in such short notice - particularly because the play was designed fro Ben to float to his right slightly. With his shoulders not even close to square to begin with, there's just no time to change paths and avoid the sack.  Ben might have been better off sprinting to his right (opposite direction then way he's facing) and throwing it away once outside the pocket, but that's not really his fault. Or the point of this.

Instead, I show this to illustrate just how close the Steelers were to maybe making a huge day down the field. See how the rest of the linemen have more than created a suitable pocket for Ben to throw from? And notice how Stape had plenty of help from his buddies on the left side had he not been off balance and gotten tossed out of the way? So close...

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Yet so far away. As you can see, Stapleton knew he was the guilty party and more than likely, he knows exactly why things fell apart in a hurry. You rarely see a player clap his hands in frustration after getting beat physically. On a small mental miscue that is easily correctable, more likely for 300+ pound men to 'fess up and show some frustration. In his defense, it wasn't a matter of effort - he was too fast and zealous getting to his spot. That's a correctable mistake moving forward for our young guard who's done such an admirable job learning and competing on the fly this year.

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