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Steelers did not alter deep secondary much from first half to the second

Pittsburgh got burned by Detroit's Calvin Johnson in the first half, but shut him out in the second. The defensive approach really didn't change, they just played better.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Hatred and venom were spewing in all directions from fans at halftime of the Steelers' eventual 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 11.

Simply put, and filtered for a family audience, there was some confusion as to why Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could put cornerback Ike Taylor on Calvin Johnson without any help for extended periods of time.

The second half, though, when Johnson didn't catch a ball, credit was given to LeBeau for "adjusting" - easily the most misunderstood concept in football - and providing Taylor with help.

Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly went back and confirmed the Steelers defense had the same amount of one-deep and two-deep safety looks throughout the game, and that number did not change much from the first half to the second half.

The reason Johnson was shut down in the second half was because the Steelers shut him down - not because of some magical adjustment no one is ever able to fully explain. The two touchdowns Johnson scored in the first half came against single-high safety coverage. It appears Will Allen is sucked up the middle a little bit on one, and Ryan Clark bit on a shorter route in front of him on the other.

Both of those plays appeared designed specifically to get the safety to move, and Taylor appeared to be expecting that deep help on both of them.

However one wants to break down Taylor's performance (fairness in savagery, Taylor was on our Losers list after the game), there are times cornerbacks simply get beat. And even with FOX color man Brian Billick railing on about the help Taylor isn't getting, there's more to it than that. The safety can simply get caught out of position.

The compelling factor here is the 26-23 loss the Steelers had against Tennessee in Week 6 last year. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that game was also the first with significant snaps at safety for Will Allen, and the Steelers played in a single-high safety for much of that game. Taylor was often beat outside the numbers by Titans WR Kenny Britt.

Again, Allen was sucked up the middle often, and Tennessee designed the play to do just that. The Steelers used more of a Cover 2 and Cover 3 shell in games moving forward, particularly with A.J. Green against Cincinnati the following week (he had one catch, a touchdown, for eight yards).

Players like Johnson and Green can be feast-for-famine, but it takes an individual effort as well as a team effort to slow them down. Hopefully, the Steelers can employ more of their second half effort on Johnson against Cleveland's stud WR Josh Gordon in Week 12.

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