The Steelers came into a stormy game against the Cincinnati Bengals with Ben Roethlisberger on a multiple-game streak of interceptions against one of the top ranked defenses in the NFL. So naturally the team knew that it had to produce in its ground game for the team to be victorious. The loss of DeAngelo Wiliams meant that Jordan Todman and Franklin Toussaint had to step up in big ways, but so did the offensive line. We gave Toussaint his fair share of highlights with his receiving plays earlier this week in Film Room, so today we'll use Jordan Todman's runs to highlight the offensive line.
This zone run scheme is set up by a few components on the play. The Steelers do not let the Bengals change the line of scrimmage and simultaneously set the edge for Todman to cut back to the weak side of the formation for a big gain. Thank Heath Miller and Alejandro Villanueva for that, both keyed off on their assignments and kept them inside for Todman to bounce out of the tackle box. Antonio Brown also shows some decent down field blocking as he sends his cornerback to the turf and allows for Todman to pick up a first down.
Again running to the weak side of the formation, Todman gets help from Villanueva and Miller, the latter of the two pulls to the week side and throws a key block to give Todman time to get out of the backfield and down the field. Notice how in both runs, Todman is not hesitant, he decides quickly where he wants to attack and runs hard to gain yardage. He showed exactly what the Steelers saw in him when they signed him after he scored against them during the final week of the NFL preseason.
This play was less about the result of the play and more about phyiscality. As a former offensive linemen, few things give me more satisfaction from a Steelers player during film room than seeing an old-fashioned pancake of a defensive player. Here, David DeCastro gets to the second level of the Bengals defense and has a clear chance to block Vontaze Burfict, a player that has taken numerous cheap shots against the Steelers for many years now. He drives Burfict on his back during the play, crushing him and making sure he will not have a chance to twist anyone's ankle, knee or do anything after the play. DeCastro has become a physical leader for Pittsburgh in his young career and righftully so. He never backs down from the physical challenge and has proven to be one of the NFL's toughest players, all while still not crossing the line to be an insane headcase like Burfict who regularly injures players and costs his team in significant scenarios.
Pittsburgh's offensive line showed a lot of heart and determination in this game as it plowed the road for two practice squad running backs to combine for over 100 yards on the ground (as well as Martavis Bryant's 44 yard run). DeCastro leading in Pouncey's absence has been a theme all season, and it seems as if the rest of the offensive line, despite two of them being backups, has stepped up to the challenge with him.
The Steelers will need the same type of tenacity when they play the Denver Broncos on Sunday.