Running the football and stopping the run are far less elegant than the weaponized passing games that exist in today's NFL. The Steelers, though, are on a three game winning streak because of their ability to dip into old school fundamentals.
These attributes were highlighted well in Pittsburgh's 24-20 win over the Giants in Week 9.
Second quarter, 6:46 left, Steelers ball on second and 10 from Giants 48 yard line
The Steelers line up, sans Antonio Brown, in a bunch formation on the right side, with tight end Heath Miller off the line to the right of right tackle Mike Adams. Jerricho Cotchery is in the slot to Miller's right, Emmanuel Sanders is wide to his right, with Isaac Redman behind Ben Roethlisberger in the back field.
At the snap, the Steelers are running an inside zone, meaning it's a run inside the guard with zone blocking. Adams and right guard Ramon Foster get a great push from their right side to the left. Miller seals off the outside rush, giving Redman plenty of space to accelerate through the crease.
Left guard Willie Colon does an outstanding job of reaching the linebacker on the second level, sealing off the back side, just as both Cotchery and Sanders reach the defensive backs.
This is as well blocked a running play as you'll ever see. Redman goes untouched for about seven yards, and is drug down by Prince Amukamara after an 11-yard gain.
Third quarter, 2:26 left, Giants ball on third and five from Pittsburgh's 5-yard line
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against the Giants. Although much of it was probably due to an interception he had in the first half, plays like this are why Taylor is still starting in the NFL.
At the snap, the Giants are looking to get wide on a lead run with fullback Henry Hynoski blocking for running back Andre Brown. Left tackle Sean Locklear, standing in as a tight end in the unbalanced formation, and left guard (tackle on this play) Will Beatty double-team outside linebacker James Harrison.
The Giants are thinking if they can seal off Harrison with a double team, then cut off linebacker Lawrence Timmons in pursuit by releasing Beatty (which they did and did a good job of it), they'd take their chances with Hynoski blocking Taylor in the open field.
Taylor sees this, and keeping his outside leg open, squares his shoulders to the line (and not the ball carrier). In doing that, he has the leverage to be able to attack Hynoski's outside shoulder and simply beat Hynoski to the spot; thus cutting off Brown's route to the outside.
The double-team inside on Harrison and the release to Timmons does not account for safety Ryan Clark, as the intention of the play was for Brown to beat Clark to the outside. Clark sees the play developing, and thanks to Taylor's perfect technique in cutting off the outside angle, Clark is able to knife in and make the tackle.
Outstanding awareness from both Taylor and Clark, and great technique by Taylor.
Coming very soon to Behind The Steel Curtain...video breakdown of plays much like these.
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