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Steelers Film Room: Secondary fails in crunch time

Mike Glennon had a big second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. Unfortunately, breakdowns in the Steelers' secondary led to many of the issues.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 0-for-5 on third down in the first half. They finished the game 7-for-13 on third down. There's your football game right there.

Not only did the third-down conversions allow Tampa Bay to score and stay in the game, it also kept the Steelers offense off of the field. As a result, missed opportunities by the offense become magnified.

Unlike previous games, the Steelers' defense kept Tampa Bay behind the chains. They were not converting on third-and-short. Tampa Bay was converting third-and-medium and third-and-long. Not taking anything away from the Bucs and/or Mike Glennon, but this seemed to be more the result of breakdowns in the secondary as opposed to great plays and throws by the Tampa Bay offense. The first third-down conversion by Tampa Bay in the third quarter is a perfect illustration of this.

This is an easy throw and catch. Sometimes, a route beats the coverage. For example, early in the game, the Steelers completed long passes to Antonio Brown to put them in scoring position. Something tipped the Steelers off that the Buccaneers were playing cover 2.  As a result, on each play, Brown ran a deep flag route.  If you're able to protect the QB, cover 2 cannot defend this route.

That's not what's happening here. Cortez Allen should be playing inside leverage in a trail position. The QB should have to throw the ball over Allen and underneath Troy Polamalu. Because Allen has outside leverage, this is an easy completion.

This trend continued throughout the second half. Of course, the problems were magnified on the last two completions of the game.

A few things here. First, Mike Mitchell jumps the in-breaking route (I mistakenly refer to him as the running back in the GIF).  Why he's doing this, I'm not sure. Polamalu was quoted after the game saying the Steelers were playing cover 3. That means that the Steelers should have four underneath defenders and three deep defenders. Each deep defender has a third of the field. In the clip, both Brice McCain and Allen are in one of the outside thirds. One of those guys, with Mitchell, has to be an underneath defender. Mitchell should be expanding his zone and reacting to the throw underneath. Moreover, there should be another underneath defender; either McCain or Allen. Once again, what this does is to allow an unbelievably easy throw for Glennon. Both receivers are wide open.

Also, Polamalu is very deep on this play. As a result, he should be coming forward at the completion instead of moving sideways. That would then limit the run after the catch. But it's hard to fault Polamalu too much on this play because the ball is thrown on a line because the receiver is wide open.

This one is still hard to watch:

Once again, this isn't a great play by Tampa Bay as much as it is a fundamental mistake by the defense. Vincent Jackson has a narrow split. He's inviting Jackson to run a whip route. Now maybe William Gay is expecting immediate help or perhaps Gay is gambling and just thinks Jackson is running a slant route. But with all of the help inside of Gay, it's hard to understand why he doesn't have outside leverage.

By the way, did anyone notice Mike Mitchell getting illegally picked at the top of the screen, right in front of the line judge? Obviously, the secondary wasn't the only group to have a rough outing on Sunday.