I review some of the big pass plays allowed by the secondary this year
New England was a very tough game to watch, but after reviewing the All 22 film I noticed that it wasn't just because they were old and slow, they just made some curious decisions.
This play confuses me, the Patriots have 3 WRs on this play and Ridley will be a check down. Dobson is going to run an out and up, Amendola will run a vertical seam route and Edelman is going to run an out an up as well. Just by looking at formations pre snap, the Steelers have enough bodies for the 3 receivers in the secondary. On the top of your screen, the Steelers have 3 DBs for 2 receivers and at the bottom, Taylor and Clark will bracket Edelman.
This play is on Troy and I really hate to pick on him, but his decision making on this play confuses me. Notice how in the 1st picture, he is lined up on the same side of the field as Gay and Allen where there were 2 receivers lined up, yet in this frame, he is on the same side of the field as Edelman which confuses me. Clark and Taylor have him bracketed and Edelman is the only WR on that side of the hash, so why does Polamalu think they need his help? No need to put someone in triple coverage unless he is Calvin Johnson. Since Allen didn't carry the receiver down the seam (why he doesn't I don't know either) he leaves Gay by himself with 2 receivers. Amendola already has Gay beat down the seam, but Gay still has good position on Dobson, the outside receiver. Polamalu should be where Amendola is for 2 reasons. Pre-snap Polamalu should have seen that Edelman was the only receiver on that side of the field and he should have known that Clark and Taylor both had him in coverage. He also should have seen that there were 2 receivers lined up in front of him with only 2 DBs and should have stayed with those 2 receivers. He had less ground to cover. What annoys me is that the Steelers have the advantage in this matchup. Clark and Taylor had one guy to cover and they at least held up their end on this play and on the other side of the field they have 3 DBs for 2 WRs. Had Polamalu stayed on his side of the field, he probably would have been able to make a play on the ball and save the touchdown. I love Troy, but have to question his decision making in this instance.
On this play, Jacoby Jones is going to beat Gay and get wide open, however the wind saves this from being a touchdown. The Steelers are playing Cover 3 with Clark as the single high safety. He is responsible for the deep 1/3 of the field and has to get deeper than the deepest receiver and then react to the play and go to where the ball is. He does not do this
You can see them playing Cover 3 because once Smith leaves Taylor's zone, Taylor passes him off to Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu. Timmons isn't in great position, but Polamalu is and if Flacco tries to throw it to Smith, Polamalu has himself an interception. For whatever reason, Clark thinks that he needs to help out Troy and Timmons with Smith, but thinks Gay is going to be ok with Jones running a vertical. Like I said before, there is no need to put 3 people on one receiver, especially when there is an open receiver deep down the field.
As you can see, Smith is double teamed underneath and it is way too late to help Gay out because Jones is in full stride and 5 yards behind Clark, who is standing flat footed. Why did Clark choose to cover Smith on this play? Does he think Gay can run with Jones or does he simply not see Jones running deep? Either way it's inexcusable. Even though Gay got beat and Clark is 34 years old and slow, he should have still been there to help Gay. It's basic Cover 3 defense. The single high safety is the last line of defense, he has to know to get deeper than the deepest and prevent the deep pass. It's ok to give up a 15 yard completion underneath. Troy and Timmons have Smith covered beautifully on this play, there is no reason to help them out. Why he doesn't notice or help out Gay, I'm not sure. The Steelers definitely need to get younger in the secondary, but this was just a bad read by Clark. As slow as he is, if he honored his responsibility he would have intercepted the pass. It was underthrown luckily, but had Clark been where he was supposed to, he would have had a great chance at intercepting it.
The Steelers were not so lucky this time and this pass was completed. They are showing a Cover 2 look, but pre-snap Clark is going to run up near the LOS and Will Allen (standing at the 40 yard line) is going to be the single high safety. Look at where Cortez Allen starts this play (bottom of your screen at midfield) He is going to make the TD saving tackle and not Will Allen. How I'm not sure. Credit Cortez for being able to make up all of that ground and save the TD.
Allen is in great position to help on Smith. The yellow line is where he should be helping, but the red line is where he actually goes. Notice how Troy has his eyes on Jones and picks him up coming across the field in his zone. If Flacco tries to hit Jones, Polamalu is going to have an interception. As you can see by the outside technique Taylor is playing, he is expecting deep help from Allen
They are playing Cover 3 again. You can see Cortez fall off Jones because he leaves his zone. He plays his part right. Now go to the top of your screen and look at the technique Taylor is playing. He is inviting Smith to the inside because Will Allen is going to help him out, or at least that's what Taylor thinks. Instead Allen thinks that Troy needs help on Jacoby Jones but as you can see, Troy is in perfect position to intercept the ball once again. You will also see that Timmons is 5 yards ahead of Polamalu in the throwing lane. Will Allen does not honor his responsibility just like Clark on the previous play I showed you. Also take not of where Cortez Allen is (bottom of your screen at the Pittsburgh 40) He is going to be the one to make the tackle on this play. He is smart enough to see that Jones was picked up by Troy over the middle and realizes that this ball is going to Torrey Smith way down the field. He makes up a lot of ground to get there (These 2 plays happened on the same series which annoys me even more. That's twice in the same series the safety chose to help someone underneath that was in a position to intercept the ball instead of helping out deep)
The Steelers are in fact capable of preventing a big pass, granted this is 2012, but this is literally the same play that Smith beat them with this year in Baltimore. Last year they could cover it, but not this year. The Steelers are playing Cover 3 again and Will Allen is the deep safety. Anyhow let's review it. Smith will come in motion and run a dig route across the middle and Boldin is going to run a go route.
Look at how the Steelers play this as compared to this year. Smith is in between the blue and red lines and he is covered underneath by the player with the blue line coming from him. Allen is in bewteen the green and red lines. Look at the depth he has on the play, it's exactly how he should be playing his 1/3. He is deeper than the deepest receiver and is in excellent position to help K. Lewis and if he sees Flacco throw the ball to Smith, he will have enough time to get there and hit him or make a play on the ball. The green line is showing you where he is going to end up and the red line (wrong spot to go) is where he went when the Ravens ran this play in 2013
Allen sees Boldin trying to run deep and decides that he will help K. Lewis on this throw. He sees Flacco throw the ball and runs over to help out on Boldin. He plays this defense perfectly. He understands he is the last line of defense before the snap and gets deeper than the deepest receiver when the ball is snapped. He gets great depth on the field and has Boldin and Smith in front of him. He doesn't take the bait on Smith over the middle because he is covered underneath and instead decides to help out K. Lewis on a deep pass. He gets over there in great time and is there before the ball. The pass fell incomplete and the Steelers saved a TD. My question is why was Allen able to make the correct read on the same play with the same defense called one year, but not make the right one the following year?
So here you have it. The Steelers weren't just getting beat because their secondary has an average age of 32 or however old it is. They all made such simple mistakes and went to the wrong place. As you can see in 2012, Allen was able to prevent the very same play that the Steelers got beat by this year against the same opponent. I don't mean to rip on our safeties, how can you be disciplined one year, but not another? They are all veterans and should understand the situation.
It goes without saying that we need to get younger in our secondary however, their age and slowness was not the only reason we gave up so many big pass plays. It was simple things like not being where you were supposed to be. I don't know if there was poor communication by the guys in the secondary or the fact that Timmons struggled calling the defense in his first year, but that is one thing they have to fix.
If anyone would like to add anything to my breakdowns of these plays feel free. This is the way I am interpreting them, but feel free to let me know what your interpretations of them are.