It wasn't always pretty, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to put away the Cincinnati Bengals, ending their season with their AFC Wild Card victory Saturday night in rain soaked Paul Brown Stadium. In the latest BTSC Film Room we take a look at the plays which turned the tide for the black and gold, and helped them advance past the Bengals and onto the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round.
On the first play, there is a lot of trust involved between Ben Roethlisberger and Martavis Bryant. Remember the "challenge" Roethlisberger gave to Bryant in the days leading up to the playoff game? Well Bryant answered the bell in a big way with the team's lone touchdown of the game, and what a touchdown it was.
On this play you see a great design by Todd Haley and company. Antonio Brown runs the underneath out route, which makes Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick think Bryant will be running over the top of the route to perform the very popular "rub" route. Bryant fakes to the inside, Kirkpatrick bites, and he has the back corner of the end zone open for the touchdown.
Byrant showed a great adjustment, as well as high-pointing the ball, but the wet conditions likely led to his near drop. He didn't drop the ball, and instead Steelers Nation was treated to one of the best catches the NFL has seen in a long time.
Remember all the people who wondered why Ryan Shazier was picked in the first round? People who claim he is too small to play inside linebacker and how he should be a safety? Well this play is exactly why the Steelers drafted him so high.
Shazier's speed and athleticism at the inside linebacker position are almost unparalleled in the NFL. What he lacks in size and bulk, he makes up for in the other tangibles desired to cover running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.
This play doesn't just show Shazier's athleticism, but how the zone scheme the Steelers deploy can work to perfection. Shazier drops into coverage, but look at the rest of the defense who is covering on the play. All Bengals receivers are in front of them, and their eyes are on AJ McCarron. McCarron decides to check the ball down, and Shazier closes like being shot out of a canon.
A lot will be talked about the hit, and Shazier's head placement which ended the game for Giovani Bernard, but this isn't highlighting the hit, but the coverage and play to cause a fumble which should have resulted in a touchdown for Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately this GIF doesn't show one huge aspect of the Jeremy Hill fumble which breathed life back into the Steelers, and ultimately helped them win the game. Jarvis Jones, the right outside linebacker on the play, reads run and tracks the play down from the right side. He is able to make first contact with Hill, which doesn't allow Hill to put his second hand on the ball.
After initial contact, it is the typical hold-him-up-and-rip-it-out drill. With only one hand on the ball and rain pouring down, Shazier is able to dislodge the ball and give the Steelers the chance to win, which they do thanks to bone-headed decisions by Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, but also because of Chris Boswell.
It wasn't always pretty, but the Steelers got the job done, and the result is a trip to the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs, where Mike Tomlin has never lost. They will need players like Martavis Bryant, Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones to all step up in a big way if they plan to beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and head to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010.