The Buffalo Bills have a very talented defensive front, with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus anchoring the middle. The Steelers were able to efficiently run the ball between the tackles in their Week 9 win over Buffalo, especially in the first half when Ramon Foster was healthy.
A couple of things jump out on this play. First, inside zone runs normally don't hit play side because the interior defensive linemen normally do not get reached. Instead, the inside zone scheme takes advantage of this and gives the running back the opportunity to cut the ball back.
Inside zone runs are cut back if the running back sees a defender in the play side gap. However, there is no defender since Ramon Foster (with the help of a chip from Kelvin Beachum) has sealed off the defensive tackle.
Moreover, Fernando Velasco and David DeCastro execute a beautiful zone block against Dareus. Both Beachum and Velasco are able to get to the second level while DeCastro and Foster secure the down linemen. The Steelers also do a great job of maintaining their blocks and allowing Le'Veon Bell to fall forward.
Bell also does a nice job of accelerating into the hole. In order to be a good zone back, the back has to have patience to the hole and then speed through the hole. Bell illustrates that concept perfectly here.
In last week's Steelers Film Room, we pointed out the Steelers' bad performance on 3rd and short. Specifically, the Steelers did a very poor job of lowering their pad level and driving their feet. In the following clip, you'll see a much better job by the Steelers offensive line.
Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are very good on this play. Gilbert's pad level is great and he accelerates his feet through contact. Adams has good pad level, but if you get a man his moving his feet like this, good things are going to happen.
The best analogy I can think when describing the role of the offensive linemen here is to imagine you are pushing a car. When you start, you are going to take large steps, and as you get the car moving, you'll take shorter steps and your steps will accelerate. Also, the key to getting the car (or the defensive linemen) moving is to drive your knees, as opposed to just picking your feet up and putting them down.
You see all of this from the Steelers on this play. Pad level, drive the knees, and accelerate the feet through contact. Finally, Bell does a very nice job of finding a small crease in the defense and attacking it with power.
Honestly, how much fun is it watching this:
Besides the sudden impact of Lawrence Timmons, there are a few other things to point out on this play. First, William Gay plays this perfectly. One of the keys to playing good defense (regardless of position) is to keep your shoulders square. Imagine guarding a point guard in basketball. You want to keep your shoulders square for as long as possible. Same thing here.
The Steelers are in man coverage, and Buffalo is trying to exploit it by bunching their receivers. However, the Steelers execute what is commonly known as a "banjo" technique: the defenders sit and wait for a receiver to come to their area. Gay has whoever is breaking to his left, Cortez Allen has the middle, and Troy Polamalu has the receiver that goes inside. Gay keeps his shoulders square and simply waits for Johnson. Gay is then able to shuffle his feet and get a jam on Johnson, which disrupts the entire play.
If I were a Buffalo fan, I would not like what I see next. E.J. Manuel goes moves off of his first read and immediately looks to run. Granted, Lamarr Woodley does get some pressure, but Manuel seems to be ready to leave the pocket before Woodley's pressure.
That was a very athletic move by Woodley, also. He jumps to react to the pass and then is able to take that same hand and rip it underneath the offensive tackle.
The Steelers are prepared for Manuel to run. They have Jason Worilds assigned to the QB, and Timmons is covering the running back. When Timmons sees that the running back is blocking Jarvis Jones, he knows he can attack the quarterback. Timmons does exactly that.
The Steelers improved upon the poor offensive line and secondary play that plagued them last week. This trend will need to continue as the Steelers try to make something out of the 2013 season.
Read all film breakdowns from each game this season on BTSC's Steelers Film Room hub.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Bills vs. Steelers: Postgame news and updates stream
- Ben Roethlisberger Trade Rumor: Everything we know
- BTSC Week 11 NFL Power Rankings
- It's hard for Haley to ignore the chip on Dwyer's shoulder
- Rapoport stands behind report
- Timmons, Woodley help provide gap discipline vs. Bills
- Character (Ac)Counts: Or Does It?
- Return of the Renegade
- Jerricho Cotchery: Solid, dependable
- Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Mike Adams earn top grades from Pro Football Focus
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