This is probably one of the most dominant victories that Steelers Film Room has ever had the pleasure of recapping. Cameron Heyward and Steve McClendon were unblockable for most of the night. Moreover, starting about midway in the first quarter, it became very apparent that the left tackle of the Panthers was being worn out by Jarvis Jones.
That's really the only bad part about this game. Jones has shown flashes this season, but he was dominant Sunday Night. He was drawing penalties and causing disruption in both the run and the pass game. If he doesn't get hurt, he probably gets 3 sacks this game.
Jones plays outside linebacker like Troy Polamalu plays safety: he plays with no regard for his safety while throwing his body around.
It's a freak injury that hopefully doesn't stop Jones' progression. With luck, Jones gets back (hopefully) soon enough to help with the team's late-season push.
As dominant as the Steelers' defensive line was, it was the offensive line that put on a show.
The Steelers get two double-teams at the point of attack here. First, watch Cody Wallace get his pad level under the nose tackle and drive. Wallace has a great base, drives his knees and is working off of his insteps - meaning, he's not on his toes. He has his entire foot on the ground which allows him to have more power. Because of the push, Thomas Davis is immediately put in a bind because there's a huge cutback lane. He has to stack the nose tackle, who is being driven into his lap.
The double-team by David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert is something to behold. They literally drive the defensive tackle five yards off of the ball. Watch how the linebacker and safety for the Panthers both end up in the C-gap. That's a cardinal sin on defense: they have two guys in the same gap. The slight hesitation by Bell sets up Luke Kuechly outside and Bell then bursts inside. Kuechly cannot recover because the defensive tackle has been pushed past him.
The unsung hero of this play is Matt Spaeth who cuts off the defensive end. This is really good stuff by the offensive line. Great pad level, base and feet.
Of course, this wasn't the end of the highlights for the offensive line.
This is a designed cutback for the running back. The offensive line is running inside zone right and LeGarrette Blount is supposed to cut the ball back left. Will Johnson is sent opposite of the line to kick out the defensive end who, in this case is the SAM linebacker. Great path by Johnson here. Notice how he attacks the line of scrimmage first and then bends out to kick the linebacker. This path gives him the angle to hit the linebacker with his left shoulder. If he hits him too square, the linebacker might be able to fall inside and trip up the running back. Also, his path forces the linebacker to step up, thus allowing Blount to hit the cutback.
Once again, look at Cody Wallace. Great pad level and great knee drive. Wallace and Pouncey blow the nose tackle off of the ball. Once again, Keuchly has to go around the defensive lineman on his path to the running back because the defensive lineman has been driven so far off of the ball.
Blount does the rest. He lifts the (would-be) tackler off of his feet and puts him on his back. Notice how the corner comes in late? That's because he's playing press coverage on Antonio Brown. Here you see how having an elite wide receiver can help the running game. The corner cannot play off because Brown will just run a slant or a stand up. That's something Ben Roethlisberger will check at the line of scrimmage. The threat of it alone is enough to take a defender out of the play.
The Steelers were operating on all cylinders Sunday night. Hopefully, they can continue to build on the momentum they created.
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