Our fine editor here at BTSC, Neal Coolong (praise be upon him), was one of the first people that I know of that sounded this alarm. Specifically, he mentioned that the Steelers needed to begin to look at players on defense that might not be that stout against the run, but could flat our get after the QB. The example he would often site is Aldon Smith from the San Francisco 49ers.
Picking up on this theme, I have mentioned previously that I would like to see the Steelers take a tight end, that may be a "project" blocking, but could be a beast running down the seam or in the red zone.
I lamented last year's late season loss to the Cincinnati Bengals because it was obvious that neither team was going to do anything in the playoffs, no matter who won. Teams that lack the ability to create big plays cannot consistently win in today's NFL. I may be completely wrong about all of this, but the players that the Bengals and Steelers took at the top of their drafts last year seem to lend some credence to what I am proposing.
Along these lines, Le'Veon Bell can make plays in all three phases of the offense. Running, catching, and blocking. Bell will probably not get 1000 yards rushing this year, but so what? He has over 1000 yards combined rushing and receiving, even though he missed most of training camp and the beginning of the season. Yards are yards, who cares how he gets them?
Moreover, his ability the catch the ball is going be the thing that lengthens Ben Roethlisberger's career. A lot of ink has been spilled over the past few years about Ben's need to get rid of the ball quicker. Well, when you have an option like Bell, that concept becomes a lot more tantalizing.
Vontaze Burfict has no chance on this play. More important, however, is why. The Steelers were able to utilize both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth in their no huddle, empty package. This really puts the defense in a bind. Do you go with a dime package and allow the Steelers run all over you? Or, do you leave two linebackers in the game and allow this to happen to them on a consistent basis?
The Bengals chose the latter and Bell had success in the passing game as a result. As Bell becomes a bigger part of the Steelers' offense, the offense can really become dangerous as a result of Bell's ability to make plays.
This puts the Steelers in an interesting dilemma this offseason. Antonio Brown has proven to be an elite playmaker in the NFL. Bell has already become a big part of the offense. Heath Miller will be better next year. There are only so many guys you can throw the ball to. Does the emergence of Bell in the passing game (and the emergence of Brown becoming an All Pro receiver), mean that the Steelers should not be looking at a receiver early in this year's draft?
Speaking of young players emerging, we all know about what Cameron Heyward has become this year. Can Al Woods and Vince Williams become bigger assets for this team next year?
First of all, look at the pad level of the Steelers defensive line. That is great coaching. Heyward and Hood decisively win their one on one battles, and Woods destroys this double team.
Vince Williams makes a great read on this play. There is no window for the running back to attack. Therefore, it would make the most sense for the back to try and bounce the play outside. Williams scrapes in anticipation of that happening. Instead, the back tries to put his head down and move the pile. However, Woods is acting as the immovable object on this play. Hood gets penetration, and Williams folds into to finish the play.
One thing that Williams has done well all year is finish. When he tackles, he drives the running back backwards.
One thing that Marcus Gilbert has done well all year is run block.
Once again, kudos to the offensive staff. Once they realized that the Bengals defensive line was diving at the feet of the offensive linemen, they made this call. From David DeCastro back, the offensive line is able to seal everyone off. Then, Spaeth and Gilbert execute a beautiful combo block.
Watch Gilbert's footwork. He is able to gain leverage with his first step. Next, he drives up the field with his second step, which is his power step. From this point, it is simply a matter of continuing to drive with his feet. Beautiful stuff.
If the offensive line continues to play well, then it will give the offensive playmakers more opportunities. When the offense becomes prolific, it forces the opposing offense to take more chances. This puts the defense in a much better position to make plays. And finally, when the special teams contribute with a few big plays, you get what happened Sunday night.