Antwon Blake caught a lot of flack from Steeler Nation after a bad showing against the Kansas City Chiefs. We even highlighted him in our film room going into the game for his mistakes against the Chiefs.
This week, the secondary as a whole was the asset over the liability.
Let's take a look at some of the key things they were able to accomplish.
This was a perfect example of how to cover any receiver that has a height advantage over you in the red-zone. By sticking AJ Green's inside shoulder, Ross Cockrell has a better chance to keep Green from getting any open space to make a big play for his team.
Green most likely has an option route to either go inside or try the pylon to give Dalton the best target he can for the score. Cockrell takes away one of the options from the start of the play and forces a more difficult throw. Though Green did have a solid day by the numbers, the Steelers' secondary did a solid job of limiting him and the high scoring Bengals' offense from taking over the game.
This play would have been the play of the game had the Steelers not turned the ball over twice afterwards. Blake executes zone coverage to perfection on this play.
He gets to his area fast and breaks down with his eyes on Andy Dalton so he could know where to break on the ball. As he quickly identifies that Marvin Jones is going to the corner, he keeps the play in front of him and makes a perfect play on the ball as Dalton throws it right to him. He's not a shutdown cornerback in the least, but when the play is in front of him he can certainly capitalize on it.
Here we see what happens when you fail to get a hand on Green in the red-zone. Cockrell has a similar situation with Green here and does not get his hands on him early to turn him away. Guarding AJ Green is one of the more difficult responsibilities in the league, but fundamentals are the best way to give yourself an opportunity to overcome tall odds and tall receivers.
Ultimately the secondary had a very good day against the Bengals. The talk before the game was of it being a shootout between a fully loaded Bengals offense and the Steelers' offense who had just seen the return of Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh's defense gave the team every opportunity to win the game by creating two turnovers and not allowing a third down conversion until the second half.
The secondary is considered to be the weakest unit of the team, a claim which is not unwarranted with the amount of talent and investments made at other positions, but if it can play like this throughout the rest of the season, it's going to give the Steelers a really good shot at making the playoffs.
Long live the defense.