Ask and you shall receive. Earlier this week a reader suggested we do a film room analysis on one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two goal line stands vs. the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12. So, we are going to take a look at the first of the two goal line stands the defense performed on Thanksgiving night.
Some will argue the team should never have been in these situations, especially with Scott Tolzien and not Andrew Luck at quarterback, but this has been the status quo of the Pittsburgh defense this year. Bend, but don’t break.
Let’s get to the break down one play at a time.
1st and Goal: Wild Cat run
On this play Sean Davis, the new starting strong safety, does a tremendous job reading the offense and knowing his responsibilities. With man coverage to his right, and the Colts sending a receiver in motion opposite him, he can key on the backfield and the running game.
Davis is showing tremendous potential reading offensive formations and shooting the gap to disrupt the play. He did this same on a 3rd and 1 in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott, but his timely play couldn’t have come at a better time.
Davis reads run all the way, and is able to come in on the backside to stop the running play in its tracks. Great play, but plenty of work left to be done.
On to second down...
2nd and Goal: Shotgun run to Frank Gore
When you see someone like Ryan Shazier get a free lane to the backfield, you know someone up front is doing their job. Watch Javon Hargrave to start the play and you see him draw a double team. This allows Shazier to have a clean avenue to Frank Gore.
As he often does, Shazier’s speed was his worst enemy here and he misses the initial tackle, but it slows down Gore enough for Stephon Tuitt to help bring him to the ground. Once on the ground, Gore continues to lunge to the goal line, and Lawrence Timmons pulls him backwards for good measure.
This was a tough run stop for the Steelers, with the Colts in a 3-wide formation and out of the shotgun. They weren’t afforded the ability to have their usual goal line defensive front on the field, but they still were able to make the stop.
On to third down...
3rd and Goal: Play-action run by Tolzien
This turns out to be a bootleg run, but it wasn’t a designed run. The Colts were hoping to catch the Steelers thinking run, and to slide the tight end out into the flat for an easy pitch and catch. However, both Sean Davis and Robert Golden don’t bite on the fake.
Davis, knowing the lone receiver is covered peels off his coverage responsibilities to come up and make a huge play in space. Aided by Tolzien stumbling around the 5-yard line, Davis still had to make a difficult tackle with zero help, something Pittsburgh has struggled with this season.
Some argue Andrew Luck walks into the end zone, and that may be the case, but Davis made the play when it was presented to him. Can’t fault anyone for doing their job.
On to fourth down...
4th and Goal: Empty set incomplete pass
On fourth down the Steelers were aided by a very poor offensive decision to take the running back off the football field. In my opinion, taking Gore off the field in this situation tipped their hand to expect pass. They could have run a quarterback draw, but that was extremely unlikely with Tolzien at quarterback.
Watch the defense to start the play. Jarvis Jones and Lawrence Timmons, playing the inside linebacker positions, never even think about quarterback draw, but immediately head to their coverage zones.
While this pass certainly wasn’t perfect, it was where it had to be. If Tolzien leads his receiver, Timmons knocks the ball down or picks it off. He throws it behind the receiver, and believe it or not is almost a completed touchdown pass if it weren’t for a Mike Mitchell hit disrupting the receiver’s ability to reel in the football.
Turnover on downs...
What was impressive to me about this series was how the Colts seemed to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the Steelers’ defense, and they were prepared for everything.
Wildcat play, defended. Run play up the middle, defended. Play-action roll out, defended. Quick slant, defended.
It was an impressive goal line stand, and a huge positive to take away from the game when I couldn’t tell you the last time the Steelers defense stopped an opponent on four straight plays inside the 10-yard line.
A great string of plays, and hopefully a sign of things to come, and not just taking advantage of an inexperienced quarterback.