To the surprise of no one, Le'Veon Bell recently won the award given to the top rookie of 2014. Last week, Steelers Film Room highlighted Bell's pass catching prowess. Coming off of his first 100 yard performance, it seems fitting to highlight one of Bell's runs from Sunday.
A couple of things about this play. Schematically, using both Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth in the no huddle has been a great move by Todd Haley. What it does is allow Ben Roethlisberger to simply take whatever the defense is giving him because the defense is in conflict. On this play, Spaeth is aligned in the box. The extra blocker gives the defense another gap to defend. However, Green Bay only puts six defenders in the box. If Green Bay would've loaded the box with 7 defenders, that means they would have had to cover Antonio Brown one on one. They chose not to do that.
It is an easy call for Ben to go with the run. The thing to notice about Bell's run is how he basically blocks AJ Hawk. An under-appreciated aspect of zone blocking is that the running back blocks the linebackers. Bell does this by attacking the line of scrimmage, and not making his cut until he has gotten through the line of scrimmage. By attacking the line of scrimmage, he forces Hawk to engage with Cody Wallace. Here Wallace is allowed to use his strength to his advantage, as opposed to having to block a superior athlete in space.
Wallace then does a good job of keeping his shoulders square. This give Bell a two way go. If Wallace tries to block Hawk a certain way, he is then telling Bell to run the other way. By staying square, he allows Bell to cut whichever direction he wants. By not making a cut before he gets to the line of scrimmage, Bell allowed Wallace to be successful against Hawk. It sounds simple, but running backs are notoriously difficult to coach. A lot of times, they run wherever they want, instead of where ( and how) they are being coached. This is oftentimes why you see less heralded running backs find success in the NFL. The threat of being cut normally makes one a lot more coachable.
Bell runs the play as he is coached, and then allows his instincts to take over when he gets to the second level. That is the mark of a good running back.
Speaking of Matt Spaeth, when Jerry Kill became head coach of the University of Minnesota a few years back, one of the first alumni he sought out was Spaeth. The first question he asked Spaeth was what was behind the success of the Steelers. Spaeth's response was that the Steelers were a bunch of guys that just played really hard. The following clip exemplifies that statement:
First of all, kudos to Chris Carter. Carter has toiled in relative anonymity while Jarvis Jones was drafted and Jason Worilds was having a breakout year. But, given a chance, Carter contributed to a huge play in this game. His great rush forced Matt Flynn to leave the pocket.
If you are John Kuhn, you are not going to want to see this play again. Kuhn assumes that his job on this play is over, while Troy Polamalu disengages and pursues to the ball with reckless abandon. He is joined by Brett Keisel. This is a great play because it shows to veterans flying to the football to make a play in what some considered a "meaningless" game. It certainly does not look meaningless to these veterans.
Running with the linchpins of Steelers defense of the last decade is, maybe, the linchpin of the defense for the next decade. Remember, Heyward was not even starting for the Steelers until week 6 against the New York Jets. I made a comment after that game that Heyward pursued the football as if he wanted to hear his name announced as a starter at Heinz Field. The emergence of guys like Heyward and Kelvin Beachum, who weren't starters at the beginning of the year, give reason for optimism in 2014.
However, let us not forget about the veterans just yet.
This is a win for Dick Lebeau also. Through film study, he must have realized that the Packers would attempt to attack the middle of the end zone in a situation like this. Look at the position of Troy and Ryan Clark. They are almost standing next to eachother. Moreover, all of the corners allow the receivers to take inside releases. They are pushing the receivers toward Clark and Polamalu.
Troy makes a great play here. He knows that because of his pre snap alignment, there is a very small window to through to Jordy Nelson. Therefore, he buzzes towards Ike Taylor as soon as his sees Flynn turn his head in that direction. It is a calculated risk. If Flynn would have come off that read and tried to throw to Nelson, it would have given Clark time to react towards Nelson. There was not a lot of ground to cover because of their alignment.
To seal the play off, Ike makes a play on the ball. All things considered, it was a good throw by Flynn, but it was better defense by the Steelers.
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