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Steelers Vs. Broncos Rewind: Notes From The First Half Upon A Second Viewing

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Some notes from the first half of the Steelers' 31-19 loss at Denver. It was competitive, and while there were some pretty obvious things the Steelers will want to iron out, they didn't play terribly. There seemed to be some pretty basic mistakes, and the lack of aggression in coverage suggests the Steelers were terrified of Peyton Manning beating them on deep passes. The game of cat-and-mouse between Manning and Troy Polamalu started toward the end of the half, and really became the defining characteristic of the game.

Here are some of the highlights.

Week 1 Analysis: | Rewind Second Half | Defensive Breakdown | Injury Report | Offensive Breakdown | Winners/Losers | Game Story | Manning

  • Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin has to be the ugliest man on the planet. It's like, "Hey, Orlando? You tweakin', man?" "Nah, this is just how I look."
  • The Steelers show man coverage on 3rd-and-7 on Denver's opening drive. Manning has all day, WR Brandon Stokely beats Cortez Allen on a curl, chains move. There was a lot of that kind of thing Sunday.
  • Troy Polamalu anticipates the Broncos run, and gets chipped just a little bit from Stokely, who seemed to be designated by Manning as his personal meat shield. Troy gets up and is still able to tackle Knowshon Moreno for a minimal gain. And the defensive line only moved backward the whole time. Between Steve McLendon, Cameron Heyward and Al Woods, none of them shed a block, or move in a position to tackle Moreno, who's drug down by Polamalu.
  • I don't know who's idea it was to incorporate these Count Chocula looking collars on many of the home jerseys we're seeing this year, but it's difficult to imagine someone actually seeing them as a good idea.
  • We'll highlight Larry Foote's sack, but it was a nice piece of teamwork by Foote and Chris Carter. Carter bowed out to clear out left tackle Ryan Clady, leaving Foote with a straight shot at Manning with no one to stop him by Moreno. Moreno's block was less than inspiring. He completely whiffed, and down goes Manning. We're going to celebrate that because Moreno wasn't asked to block much more after it.
  • Ok, so Chris Rainey is not returning punts. That's fine, I'm just curious why Tomlin would announce he was. Maybe a last-second change of heart?
  • First play of the Todd Haley Era...Isaac Redman off right guard for about three yards. That will sound a lot like the next several plays of the Todd Haley Era, although a bit more positive.
  • Ben Roethlisberger, physically, looked outstanding in this game. Like, the opposite of how Orlando Franklin looks. That was Ben in this game. The third down passes he drilled early were bullets. His footwork was good, his eyes were down the field.
  • The first one, to Mike Wallace. He's out of shotgun, receives the snap, two steps back (ONE-TWO-BAM!). Drills Wallace in the gut with a perfectly thrown pass. If Wallace catches it (as opposed to it catching him) he might have been able to fight for the first down. Instead, he's more or less ducking from the defenders, and comes up a yard short.
  • So how much weight to Jason Worilds put on this offseason, exactly? Twenty pounds? Someone made this comment and I just nodded my head, "I thought it was Nick Eason!"
  • Any time Polamalu gets close enough to the line to sniff the undead stench coming off Franklin, Manning brings his meat shield down to block him. And he's successful every time. All he's doing is lining Stokely up on the strong side, drawing Polamalu over there, and motioning him down the line to mirror Polamalu.
  • Methinks this is a strategy we'll see more often.
  • I watched Willis McGahee's fumble about 20 times, I still can't figure out if it was Foote or LaMarr Woodley who caused it. Either way, it could have been the best defensive play of the game. Meat Shield isn't on Polamalu, and he slides into the backfield. Woodley literally throws RT Chris Clark out of the way. The two of them blow up the hole, and even if McGahee doesn't fumble, Lawrence Timmons is there to stop him for a loss (he crushed him anyway). Read perfectly.
  • Another great throw by Roethlisberger, this time hitting Emmanuel Sanders for a first down. One thing we know now, Steelers receivers are going to run skinny posts on third down and Roethlisberger is going to look to hit them at the first down stick.
  • Before this turns into a Wallace Bashing Party, something Sanders does that Wallace failed to do really stands out. Sanders runs his route, and cuts sharply inside. Upon seeing the ball, and feeling the slight bubble Denver's coverage gave him, he steps backward just a little bit, gaining that extra ground he needed for the first down. It's very subtle, but very smart. With the defender closing, he knows his best chance of ensuring the first down is to catch the ball a little later, but he still catches it in front of him. The best way to keep yourself in front of the defender but still gain yards is basically to throw your butt into the defender. He also feels the space between the defenders, makes the catch, gets small and falls forward, picking up another four yards. Great job by Sanders on this play. Hines would be proud. That's a veteran reception.
  • I think there's a reason Will Johnson only played 10 snaps, and it could have been with the stretch zone the Steelers tried to run. He's almost a full second slow off the snap, and completely whiffs on Von Miller, who tackles Redman for about a six-yard loss.
  • Allen is beaten again by Stokely in man coverage on third down. And he blows the tackle. This was not a good game for the nickel back.
  • And unfortunately, it's the first down the Broncos needed to get in their hurry-up. This kept the Steelers' nickel on the field, and Manning had figured it out by this point.
  • One thing I hate about Peyton Manning. His incessant whining to officials. Yes, you're clever, Peyton, you out-think everyone. Including the officials. You didn't get the 12 men on the field call for the same reasons it should have worked. The officials didn't know you were calling a quick play.
  • I'm glad they didn't call it and not because I was rooting for the Steelers. I'm glad they didn't call it because it's chicken-bleep football. Be a man, line your team up and play the game, don't try to exploit the rules. It's your fault you gambled on a third down play. Yell all you want you damn baby.
  • As I was yelling at Manning through the TV, we got to see rookie David Paulson absolutely destroy a would-be Broncos tackler on the punt. I mean, he crushed the guy. Welcome to the team, Mr. Paulson. You're officially on the Good Radar.
  • It's somewhat disturbing after offseason talks of a fullback and power running, the Steelers biggest running play to this point is an end-around to a wide receiver with Chris Rainey blocking out in front. Just sayin'...
  • Jonathan Dwyer has this lumbering quality to him that I love. It's almost as if he's letting the defender make the first move, then he gets really low, making it really difficult to tackle him one-on-one. It's unfortunate he faced so much initial contact behind the line of scrimmage, and he brings some of that on himself by hesitating a bit on the handoff, but that's fixable. We're looking at a very good running back.
  • Roethlisberger wishes his had that third down pass to Heath Miller back. Perfectly executed play. Don't let Tracy Porter's reaction to "nearly" getting an interception fool you, he would have looked like a dog if Roethlisberger puts a little arc under it.
  • Manning really starts using the no-huddle, and things begin to fall apart for the Steelers defense. Manning keeps the Steelers base defense on the field, which would suggest he's looking to pass a bit more. He runs on them just as effectively. That was the real issue with the defense.
  • Manning's seven-yard run on 2nd-and-6 is probably a play Timmons will hear about this week. First, Manning's play fake goes to the opposite side of the running back. Timmons comes in untouched, and is somehow juked by the gangly sloth-like movement of Manning to his right. He somehow manages to break contain, and scramble for a first down.
  • You know things aren't working when Manning easily eludes your most athletic linebacker, and is able to run for seven yards untouched.
  • Nice hold on Ziggy Hood in the hole on Moreno's touchdown. Smart thinking, because he doesn't score if the lineman doesn't hold Hood. No need to call that.
  • The Steelers touchdown drive to end the first half was not at all structurally like their previous drives. Roethlisberger got out on the move, it wasn't one quick read and release. He waited for the play to develop and he made throws. And there wasn't a fullback on the field. Hmmm...