I have to be honest, I didn't see this one coming. When the Houston Texans were up 13-0, I thought the Steelers had reached the nadir of the Ben Roethlisberger era. And I didn't see things improving anytime soon. All kinds of thoughts were running through my head. I was also very frustrated by the lack of rhythm on offense and the defense's inability to stop the outside zone. It was with this play that things seemed to begin to turn around:
It's 3rd-and-long and the Texans are going with a very conservative defense - 2 man. Conservative because they aren't blitzing. When you have J.J. Watt, you don't need to blitz.
Here's a quick summary of 2-man: man coverage underneath with 2 defenders playing over the top of everything. Moreover, the underneath defenders play trail--meaning they allow the receiver to get on top of them. They do this so they can shadow the receiver inside. If the receiver run an in or an out cut, the defender can just play underneath and deny the QB a window to throw. They can do this because there are two defenders helping over the top.
Now, the cardinal rule of 2-man is you cannot get beat on a crossing route inside. Funnel the receiver outside and get in trail. You cannot get beat on crossing routes because there's no help inside. It's not zone; there are no hooks to curl defenders.
The Texans make two huge mistakes here. First, why on earth is Brian Cushing, instead of D.J. Swearinger, assigned coverage on Le'Veon Bell? Second, Cushing allows Bell to cross his face. He knows he messed up because he grabs Bell as soon as No. 26 gets inside of him.
As soon as that happens, it's a big play. With the rest of the defenders in trail position, Bell has a ton of room to run. Great read by LeVeon Bell and Roethlisberger. As soon Ben sees the coverage, Bell becomes the primary receiver, and Bell breaks inside as he should.
The completion to Bell got the Steelers some momentum. This completion to Martavis Bryant got them back into the game.
That's fun to watch. Let me go on record saying that I'm totally happy with Martavis Bryant being a one-trick pony in his rookie year. I'm fine with Bryant just running the go-route. However, as you see on the film, Bryant actually runs a really good route. He doesn't just use pure speed. What's great about this play is that the Texans were punished for rolling coverage to Antonio Brown. Ben threw the ball deep to Bryant twice in this game. That bodes well for this offense moving forward.
Finally, this play made me forget all about 13-0.
Interestingly, this is the exact defense the Steelers used in the first preseason game when Rashad Jennings burned them for a long touchdown run. The penetration by Jason Worilds prevents that from happening on this play. Brett Keisel also does a terrific job of driving the offensive linemen into the backfield, thus cutting off any route for the running back.
The person not getting enough recognition for this play is Sean Spence. He absolutely lays the wood on Arian Foster while he's wrapped up and causes the ball to be knocked loose. There's a difference between turnovers and takeaways. Sometimes the offense turns the ball over and sometimes the defense takes it away. This is a great example of a takeaway. Spence does a great job of playing the QB on zone-read first, and then he finishes the play.
The fact that the Steelers were able to win in such a diverse way is hopefully a sign of good things to come. This game wasn't a case of Ben having a monster game, Troy Polamalu making a huge play or Antonio Brown dominating. Big plays were made by all of those people I just mentioned, but there were also big plays made by many others. That's what needs to happen to erase a 13-0 deficit and also to erase (for this week at least) some of the frustration over the inconsistency of this season.