A loss like the one this past Sunday makes a team evaluate everything that they are doing and how things are being done. The Steeler coaches were out coached on Sunday, and the players were outplayed. The clips are all an example of the coaches putting the Steeler players in a bad situation, and the players compounding the problem by performing very poorly.
The first clip is from early in the game when the Steelers were going for a 4th and short. The Patriot's defense has been hit hard by injuries, so they decided to load the box with the Bear, 46 defense.
Against this defense, it is very difficult to run to the tight end side, because the defense has the offense out numbered there. So the Steelers try to attack this defense by running weak, where the defense is more vulnerable. Anticipating this, the Patriots blitz Dont'a Hightower. Because of the blitz, Hightower hits fullback Will Johnson three yards in the backfield. This penetration forces Le'Veon Bell to make a quick cut.
However, he has nowhere to go since Ramon Foster and Fernando Velasco lose their one-on-one battles. Moreover, Guy Whimper and Marcus Gilbert get no movement at all while double teaming the backside 3-technique. And finally, Mike Adams gets totally collapsed by the linebacker playing C gap.
If any of the players that I just cited get any movement at all, Bell has a chance to get the small margin that was needed to get a first down. However, the Steelers ran right where the Patriots wanted them to, and the players did nothing to overcome this.
This was a common theme.
The Steeler defense is playing cover 3. Once again, the Patriots run the one thing that this defense is most vulnerable to, four verticals. In cover 3, the defense has three players playing deep. New England sends four receivers deep; thus, putting the defense into a bind.
The Steelers can still be successful with good technique. Sadly, the technique by the Patriots is much better than the Steelers. First, the seam defender, Cortez Allen, has to get a jam on the inside receiver. This allows the deep third players to get deep and react to the vertical routes. Allen doesn't get a jam at all, and William Gay has a problem as a result. But Gay compounds the issue by not retreating to his divider faster.
Here is the concept behind getting to the divider - the distance from the hashmark to the sideline is about 23 and a half yards. Gay has to split this difference, so he can react to the ball in the air. The idea is if the defender is on his divider, he can react to either receiver while the ball is in the air.
Gay does a good job of getting to his divider, but he does not get deep enough. Therefore, when the ball is thrown, he finds himself in a trail position. He can't react to the ball. He helplessly watches Danny Amendola run past him. As the deep third defender, Gay needs to get to his divider and be deeper than the deepest threat in his zone.
Around the 20 yard line, you see Gay turn his hips to the sideline and then he flips them towards the ball. This bit of indecision is costly.
Finally, Tom Brady and Amendola run this play extremely well. First, Amendola never gets inside the hash, thus he never brings himself to Polamalu. Second, Brady throws the ball on a line, instead of putting air under the ball. By throwing the ball like this, he makes Allen, Gay and Polamalu all pay for their mistakes. You can't see it on the GIF, but Brady looks off Troy which gives Amendola even more room.
Speaking of great execution by Brady:
Once more, the Steelers are out schemed. Brady sees the blitz by Ryan Clark, and knows that there is not seam defender to take away the quick throw. However, Brady needs to get the ball out quickly since the Steelers are bringing six defenders. Brady is up to the task, as he throws the ball as soon as his third step hits the ground.
The ball is thrown to the outside of the receiver, which allows the receiver to maintain his momentum and get more yards. The Patriots beat the Steelers pre-snap mentally and then post snap physically. That pretty much sums up the game.
Check out more breakdowns in our Steelers Film Room hub
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Bills vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Halfway through the misery
- Bills vs. Steelers: Game plans will be obvious for both teams
- Jarvis Jones speaks on hazing, Wounded Warriors and former teammate, Bills LT Cordy Glenn
- Sean Spence sees the optimism and hope in his recovery
- Brown agrees with benching, knows Steelers need better from him