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Steelers Film Room: Bad habits resurface in loss to Ravens

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The Steelers were a model of consistency during the month of December. The inconsistency that plagued them in losses to the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers resurfaced at the worst time. Contrary to what you might have heard, the Steelers were not physically beaten up by the Ravens. Instead, it was mental mistakes that cost them the chance to advance to Denver.

When the Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens back in December, I wrote that the Ravens retooled offensive line was dominated by the Steelers young defensive line.  I wrote that this did not bode well for the Ravens in future encounters against the Steelers.  Well, I was wrong.  I forgot how close the line between victory and defeat is in this league.  As Bill Cowher used to like to repeatedly say, "It is a fine line."  Indeed.

The Ravens did not dominate the Steelers defensive line. Justin Forsett had more yards at half time then he had at the end of the game.  The offensive line did not dominate against the Ravens front 7.  They clearly played worse than they did against the comparable Kansas City Chiefs.  Some of the mistakes were physical, but many were mental. This play is a good example of the latter:

This is a creative scheme by the Ravens.  They are looping a defensive tackle, and then crashing the side the DT is vacating with a outside linebacker and a safety.  The play turns out to be a loss because Beachum did not pick up the looping defensive tackle.  This is a gap scheme; when the defender shows up in your gap, you have to block him.  Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger has to block Matt Elam.  Not physically block him; but block him by throwing the bubble screen.  Steeler fans love to complain about the wide receiver screens, but this is why you run them.  The Bengals last week and the Ravens this week utilized a safety blitzing from the edge to slow down the running game.  Ben has to do a better job of recognizing this and stretching the defense horizontally.

This next mental mistake probably cost the Steelers a touchdown:

It is painful to watch Ben Tate and Kelvin Beachum both block the same guy.  It's downright torture to see Antonio Brown raise his right hand because he is so wide open.  Does anyone one really think that the safety for the Ravens has any chance of tackling Brown in the open field?

Not to harp on Ben Tate, but running backs are usually taught, beginning in high school, to look inside out for blitz pickup.  I have no idea why Tate would immediately look out.  This is a great example of the Steelers not getting beat physically, but a mental mistake that leads to a huge turnover.  Once again, it is especially hard to watch when you see how open both Brown and Heath Miller were on this play.

As bad as that was, it was not the most mystifying play.  It was by far this play:

I would love for someone to find out who had underneath coverage on Owen Daniels.  I've watched this clip like it was the Zapruder Film.  This is the biggest play of the game.  The Steelers have just made it 20-15.  It's 3rd and long.  The stadium is going crazy.  And......no one has underneath coverage on Owen Daniels.  It makes no sense!

There is no way the Steelers are playing some type of single high coverage.  You can see on the last pause, the defensive backs all have inside leverage and their backs to the ball.  That is why Daniels is able to get so many yards after the catch.  If the Steelers were in some type of single high coverage, the defensive backs would have outside leverage and would be trying to funnel the receivers to their help: the single high safety.  The Steelers look like they are in in 2 man: man on all of the underneath receivers with 2 safeties helping over the top.  It is very difficult to throw against 2 man.  The defensive backs can be aggressive on all of the underneath stuff because they have help over the top.

But who has Daniels? My guess would be it would have to be either Lawrence Timmons or Jason Worilds.  Those guys seem to think that the Steelers are running a 5 man pressure and the secondary thinks that we are running a 4 man pressure and playing coverage.  Whatever it is, it is a huge breakdown at the worst possible time.

Mike Tomlin summarized the game well during his end of the year press conference.  The Steelers did not play good situational football.  Moreover, they chose the worst possible situations in order to make some of the biggest mental mistakes of the season.