It was only a matter of time before the Steelers started giving up big plays in the secondary. It’s not because the secondary isn’t good—it’s because they’ve gotten lucky with some of their coverage lapses not being exposed in earlier games this season.
We saw what happened vs. Kansas City and how the CBs need to stay focused throughout 60 minutes of play. Otherwise, they’ll allow opposing teams to get back into the game. This time it led to the Steelers putting themselves into a 17-3 hole.
A lot of the secondary’s issues were evident in the Week 8 matchup vs. Matthew Stafford. Double moves tortured the Pittsburgh defensive backs, and the underlying theme here is simply discipline. If there is an ongoing variable, it is how the team just needs to stay disciplined.
Let’s take a look at how they did against the Colts in Week 10.
Don’t bite on the cheese
Pittsburgh’s outside CBs have been much better when it comes to defending those underneath routes, and curls, which usually lead to easy yards against them. The problem is, they’re selling out to stop them and teams are keying on that now.
The Steelers are sending a blitz and look to be in cover-3 before the snap, based on Artie Burns’ leverage towards the receiver’s inside shoulder. Mike Hilton’s leverage might give the indication it’s Cover-1.
Pittsburgh did a good job disguising Cover-3 here. I thought initially, based on Coty Sensabaugh taking the underneath flat-route, that it might be Cover-1 but, whatever the case may be, Artie Burns gets caught taking the cheese on the double-move. This led to a huge play for a touchdown.
Burns is an aggressive CB. He wants the big play, but he needs to learn when to hone it in and play with more discipline. Teams are taking note of his tendencies and he’s going to have to adjust.
When Joe Haden came out of the game, Sensabaugh was the next man up and, at points, he looked like a guy who wasn’t on the same page as the rest of the defense.
This play early in the third quarter led to a huge TD which was due to Sensabaugh not being where he was supposed to be. In Cover-3, he’s responsible for the deep left-third of the field and Hilton is supposed to have the flat.
Mitchell has no chance of making a play on this because he’s cheated more towards Burns’ side of the field and he can’t get to the opposite side to make the play. Had Sensabaugh not bit on the curl, he would have prevented the touchdown from happening.
You can tell Sensabaugh wasn’t on the same page because his hips are flipped towards the sideline and not inside. It’s like he’s playing an entirely different coverage than the rest of the defense.
I hope to see him correct this going forward because the Titans have a QB in Marcus Mariota who doesn’t miss those busted coverages. He’s very good at looking off safeties and throwing guys open. Sensabaugh is going to have to turn it around on Thursday Night football, as will Artie Burns, or the big plays might become a theme with this Steelers’ secondary.