You got the feeling early in last Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns that the Browns were not that interested in being in Pittsburgh. Case in point is this 3rd and short play that took place early in the 1st quarter. The Steeers have not been a great short-yardage team all year, but they looked like early 90's Steelers on this play:
A couple of things to point out on this play. First, Marcus Gilbert continues to be very impressive as a run blocker. Gilbert plays with very good pad level, and he has the ability to stay engaged and drive defenders after initial contact. A know a lot of people are not happy with Gilbert, and Steelers Film Room will take a closer look at him during the off season, but Gilbert has delivered a lot of very impressive blocks this year.
Next, watch David DeCastro and Cody Wallace block the A gap defensive tackle and the linebacker. Very impressive blocks by each of them. Wallace has been getting better each week. I would make mention here that Wallace does a great job of blocking to the whistle, but we all know that officials find it beneath them to actually use their whistles anymore.
But I digress
Lawrence Timmons has matured into a very good, 3 down linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 3 down linebackers are hard to find, and interestingly, the role of inside linebacker has gone the way of nose tackle in today's NFL. If you cannot play in the nickel front, then you are not going to see the field. In this sense, the nickel corner will probably see more snaps than the nose tackle or the second inside linebacker.
What is great about Timmons in the above video is his recognition. This sis a great example of the game slowing down for someone. The knowledge of the game seems to be catching up with Timmons' incredible athletic gifts. The next few years should show Timmons as being a dominant linebacker in this league.
Much was made this off season about the implementation of an outside zone play in the offense. However, when the Steelers were running the ball well in previous years, they featured the off tackle power play: the counter pike. The play has recently made a return to the offense, and it was featured a lot against the Cleveland Browns:
A couple of point concerning this play. First, you see the adjustment the Steelers make when running the play against an aggressive pass rusher. The penetrating defensive end makes the job of David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum very easy. Next, Heath Miller takes the job normally reserved for the pulling guard, which is to block the Mike linebacker.
Next, notice the design of the play. Ben Roethlisberger is given a run, pass option. I touched upon this last week. In my opinion, it is no coincidence that the run game has taken off with the return of Matt Spaeth. Not that Spaeth is an all time great blocker (though he is certainly better than David Paulson), it is the flexibility it gives Ben and the offense while in the no huddle. With both Miller and Spaeth, the offense can go empty or give the defense 8 gaps (double TE formation) to defend. Ben can see what the defense is doing and proceed from there.
What is exciting is how the Steelers can continue to build the no huddle package this off season and into next year. The offense really seems to have an identity now. Previously, even when the offense was successful, it was Ben extending plays and converting one 3rd and long after another.
Not anymore. The offense has a set rhythm to it. It stays ahead of the chains. When Ben is struggling, or the defense is trying to take Antonio Brown out of the game, the offense has plays that it goes to to get both players involved and confident. Keep in mind also that the offense really began to roll when the weather go bad. Under better playing conditions, who knows how well the offense could have played?
With that in mind, I am all for adding more weapons to the offense. Want to get more sacks and turnovers? Get leads early in games. The best run defense is a two touchdown lead.
Thanks to everyone for the great comments that always accompany Steelers Film Room. I look forward to doing this for the regular AND post season next year.
Don't worry! We may not see any games broken down for a while, but Steelers Film Room will transition into draft prospects and free agent breakdowns as the offseason continues.
- Steelers offseason priorities: Pending free agents
- Steelers sign seven to futures deals, including Kion Wilson
- New Year's Rockin' Eve Open Thread
- Steelers coaches: Anticipating changes in coaching staff is difficult
- The state of the Steelers 2013 part I: a funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs
- Ryan Clark: 'Past eight seasons has been an awesome experience'
- Steelers notes and quotes from season-ending media session