While highlighting and reflecting upon Sean Kugler's tenure with the Steelers, I wrote that a disturbing trend during Kugler's tenure was that the offensive line did not build upon early, strong performances. I did not mean for that to be a harbinger for this weekend's game, but that is exactly what happened.
At the end of the first half, the Steelers faced a 4th down near midfield. Tomlin, desperate to build some momentum and buoyed by the Steelers' success on 4th down so far this year, decided to go for it. It doesn't take a lot of time scouting to realize that the Steelers like to run right. As the first GIF shows, the Chargers sold out to this side.
The Chargers overloaded to that side and attempted to shoot the gaps in order to create penetration. Besides the linebackers blitzing in the B,C, and D gaps, the Chargers pinched the defensive tackle line up over Ramon Foster, slanted the defensive tackle lined up over Maurkice Pouncey, and played the nose tackle straight over Doug Legursky. Those three interior lineman get no push at all in the middle. As a matter of fact, they get driven back. What I don't like about any of their technique is the fact that all three of them are "catching" the defensive linemen. It almost seems that the Steelers are confused about their purpose on this play.
The play call seems to say that you know we are running here, we know that you know that we are running here, so try to stop us. But the technique of the offensive linemen does not reflect that.
They are receded off the ball, and their weight is distributed equally in their stances. If the Steelers are determined to run an attitude play, which would be my guess since Ben shows no inclination at all towards calling an audible, then why aren't the linemen crowding the ball and playing heavier in their stances?
In the past, Isaac Redman has successfully bounced this play when congestion like this has occurred, but the penetration given up by Kelvin Beachum makes this an impossibility. If Redman were able to bounce the play, he would've been one on one with the Chargers' strong safety, number 28. I think Redman wins that and the Steelers, at worst, convert the 4th down.
At the end of this play, you see a swarm of Chargers on the the other side of the line of scrimmage. That's hard to watch.
The defense played better than the offense on Sunday, but their inability to get off the field on third down proved to be their undoing. One particular play, on the opening drive of the third quarter, stands out.
The Chargers are faced with a 3rd and 13 on this play. They had managed to stay in 3rd and medium-short for most of the game, and covert those third downs with short, quick routes. To combat this down, the Steelers chose to run one of their most successful stunts of the year: Foote blitzing off the edge with an inside twist to provide interior pressure. The Chargers attack the blitz by running an inside power play. On this play, the linemen play side block down and the guard pulls for the frontside linebacker. With the twist, you'd love to see Hood get some penetration here because of his inside slant, but that's not his game. Keisel, on the other hand, cannot get blocked by the right tackle. When Keisel is performing this twist, he has to read where he is going. If the tackle would've been blocking out on Jason Worilds, Keisel can blow that gap. Once he sees the tackle coming at him, he has to get his left arm locked out and work across the tackle's face. Keisel eventually does an arm-over with his right arm to achieve separation, but the separation occurs three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Also, his footwork seems off. He is hopping instead of dipping his right shoulder (hoops drill!!) and coming right around Ziggy.
On to Timmons. He knows that Foote is gone, so I can't understand why he takes on the guard with his inside shoulder as if Foote had the cut back. Here's an idea: Put Riddel on the chin of the guard, lock him out with both arms, and push him into Ronnie Brown. In other words, lay the smack down on his candy ass. At first, I though Timmons played this so tentatively becaus he had the tight end (number 81) man to man. That could be the case, but I don't think so. I think Timmons was just caught completely off guard, as was Keisel.
Many have noted that Norv Turner made a great call, but if either Timmons or Keisel win their one on one battle here, there is no way Brown runs for a first down. Or, if Ryan Clark makes an open field tackle.
It has to be tough for Steeler players and coaches to watch the film this week. Hopefully, watching this game will create a sense of urgency among the players that carries over to their execution against the Dallas Cowboys this week.