The Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 win over the Cleveland Browns had it all. The drama of Ben Roethlisberger coming off the bench to relieve injured Landry Jones. Big hits on both teams. Turnovers. Plenty of scoring, at least for the home team. If you wanted it, you got it on Sunday at Heinz Field.
However, you can still take a look back at the game and select a few plays which truly changed the tide in the game in Pittsburgh's favor. We examine those three plays we believe were the difference for the Steelers against the Browns last week.
This play is the perfect illustration of just how the weapons at Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger's disposal can impact the game. Martavis Bryant is a freak of nature. Everyone should know that by now. Give him a one-on-one matchup on the outside with no safety help over the top and he will win that matchup 9 out of 10 times.
What to point out in this play is what everyone else is doing. First, as noted in the GIF, Roethlisberger does a great job using his eyes to move defenders away from his primary target (Bryant who is single covered at the top of the screen), but also watch what the safeties do on this play. On the snap, the safety responsible for Brown's side of the field shades his way immediately. The other safety, seeing both Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller run intermediate routes to the middle of the field sits down when he reads Roethlisberger's eyes.
By the time the far-side safety reacts to Bryant beating his man on the outside it is too late. This is the perfect example of how the Steelers beat teams with personnel and route running. If the safety on Bryant's side of the field plays deep on his half of the field, Heath Miller would be wide open down the seam. It truly is a "pick your poison" style offense when everyone is available.
You've heard of coverage sacks, where the coverage in the secondary doesn't allow the quarterback to throw to any available receivers allowing the pass rush to get to him, well this is the perfect example of a coverage interception. Against a more seasoned NFL quarterback, the veteran would most likely have thrown this football away and lived to play another down.
However, this was 4th down and the Browns were desperately in need to make a play, but it was Pittsburgh's coverage which won the down. The interior pressure forces Johnny Manziel out of the pocket to his right, where he is most comfortable, but there is nowhere for him to throw. Mike Mitchell sits on the route, reads the quarterback's eyes, and makes a great diving interception on the play.
Go ahead and watch the play again. Look at the receivers and find out where Manziel had someone open. Can't find anyone on any side of the field at any time. Great call by Keith Butler, and great coverage by the Steelers defense.
What happens when a linebacker who is responsible for dropping into coverage doesn't realize who the receiver is who is running the route behind him? Well, just watch the above play to find out. To be honest, the linebacker who drops into coverage is doing his job. His responsibility in this coverage is the outside flat, but Antonio Brown is simply too fast off the snap for the defensive back to have a chance, or for the linebacker dropping into coverage to make a play on the ball.
This is the gamble defenses take when they don't put two deep safeties on the field against the Steelers. The Browns were betting on run, and when Roethlisberger hits Brown in stride, he is off to the races. Take a look at the beginning of the play. The outside cornerback has deep coverage, allowing Brown a free release off the ball, but without any help in the deep middle of the field, this defense back is hung out to dry before Brown even catches the football.
Great play call, but better execution by Roethlisberger and Brown.
You could watch these plays all day and night and learn something new every time. From the pass protection schemes, to the way the play is drawn up to maximize the big play potential of the play makers the team possesses on the team.
The Steelers can be scary good if they stay healthy and continue to play a smart, crisp and efficient style of football in the remaining games on their regular season schedule. The health is the biggest question mark for a team which has been hindered by the injury bug all season, but heading into Week 12 off their bye, the Steelers will be as close to "whole" since Week 1 of the regular season. Here is to hoping the Steelers start up where they left off before the bye week.