The Week 16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was one to forget for the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially the defense. The team only surrendered 20 points, which is par for the course in 2015, but the plays which were given to Ryan Mallett after being signed just 12 days prior to the game left fans shaking their heads.
In this Film Room, we diagnose 3 plays which showed some breakdowns, some missteps and some questionable schematic calls by Keith Butler.
This is just my opinion, but red-zone defense comes down to dictating to the offense what is available. With the extra boundary as another defender, a defense should attempt to take away all initial reads, especially against a quarterback as green to the Ravens' system as Mallett.
To his credit, Mallett makes an unbelievable throw, but watch the Steelers defense throughout the GIF. The outside is covered well, but watch a 3-man rush lead to three linebackers dropping into coverage. Between the dropping linebackers and the safeties in the end zone, there are four Steelers surrounding the football when it is caught, yet no one is able to make a play on the ball.
As much as you want to blame Butler for not bringing the blitz on this play, the defensive call was actually perfect for the play, but the Steelers inability to execute, combined with a perfect throw equates to a touchdown on the Ravens' first drive of the game. This score set the tone for the rest of the football game.
The Steelers were okay with not sending a lot of pressure on Ryan Mallett. One of the few head-scratching game plans which never was adjusted throughout the game. This is a play where Keith Butler sends Brandon Boykin on a corner blitz, one of the few occasions a defensive back blitzed, and it was successful.
However, look at the entire play for the true story. If the Baltimore RB were able to block a cornerback, the three-man rush wouldn't have come close to Mallett, and you see several players literally sitting in coverage with the underneath route wide open, something the Ravens utilized to move the chains and maintain time of possession to keep Ben Roethlisberger and company off the field.
Kudos to Boykin for fighting through the block and securing the sack. The blitz worked, which makes you wonder why there weren't more blitzes thrown at Mallett in Week 16.
The Steelers didn't go the entire game without blitzing, one of the main problems the Steelers had was blitzing in obvious situations. Here you see the Ravens well "behind the sticks", and a clear sign Pittsburgh is bringing pressure. Lawrence Timmons wasn't able to get to Mallett on the blitz, and the front 4 pressure is non-existent.
The failed blitz, and even the timing of the blitz isn't the main issue with this play, the execution is the issue. As Timmons blitzes off the edge, you see Ryan Shazier step up to the running back out of the backfield. His responsibility is to stay with the back, but his "chuck" on the back isn't enough to force him out of his pass route.
Not only does Shazier not disrupt the route, but he gets caught flat footed and is now in pursuit, rather than staying with the receiver on the route. Shazier was drafted for plays like this, but just goes to show his game is far from perfect in his second season. This was one of those back-breaking plays for the Steelers defense, and execution was ultimately responsible for the play.
The Steelers defense had it's gaffes, but the team as a whole has been doing what they did all season. They give up yardage, they allow some points, all in hopes of their offense outscoring the opponent. The team wasn't able to get a turnover in the game, but the overall game plan and failure to adjust was seemingly what was frustrating for fans to watch.
If the Steelers want to make the playoffs they need to beat the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 and get some help from the Buffalo Bills. Even going against Austin Davis is no cake walk for the Steelers' defense. Hopefully they rectify their play in the season finale in Cleveland, OH.