Steelers notes on the Colts game
Willie Colon, after a first test, appears to be the guard that many believed he could be. He does not simply play well, he plays as a guard well. He is physical and aggressive, and while not quite yet a thing of beauty, he is effective on the move. At one point, he perfectly diagnosed and reacted to a stunt, passing the end off to Gilbert to engage the tackle. It was a very encouraging performance.
As for Gilbert, he most certainly passed the test at left tackle. Outside of one particularly poor series, he played very well overall. He had a surprising chemistry with Colon for most of the time they were in together. There were many times where he blew his man out of the hole in run blocking, even coming off a block to make another one further afield. On the first play after Rainey took a hit in the head, he and Colon teamed up to pancake the nose tackle.
On the first play after Brown’s touchdown, both Gilbert and Colon were asked to get in space for a screen pass to Rainey, and neither looked comfortable, coming up short in their blocks. This is something that could be worked on. On the next play, he peeked back at Colon as the ball was snapped and got caught by the pass rusher, getting driven back into Roethlisberger’s face. On the following play, he struggled to hold a block and forced Roethlisberger to check down on a play that had no chance of a first down, although it was about 4 seconds in to the play. He also had a false start.
There’s really not too much to say about Pouncey. While not perfect, he had a very good game, particularly in support. He has excellent hand work, keeping defenders out of his chest. I didn’t really even take any specific notes on his play because it’s just what I expect from him at this point.
While David DeCastro undeniably played well, he too was not perfect. For the second time in two games, he tried to help to his right, but ended up pushing the defender off the block instead, although this time it did not result in a sack. He needs to make sure that his help is actually helping. Also, when he gets downfield, he needs to do a better job of engaging and staying with his man. He is still overpowered on occasion and could stand to get stronger. On one passing play, he did not get to the man in front of him quickly enough and he stunted around the left tackle to register a quarterback hit.
On the positives, he actually played out in space even better than last week in terms of engaging. I think this is something that he will improve upon as he accumulates reps. He never appears to be fooled or beaten technically, but rather by speed and power. He plays with aggressiveness and constantly looks for somebody to block, although at times he could do better selecting who he blocks upfield.
Ramon Foster played much better, both at right tackle and left guard, then he played last week. Following the draft and Colon’s move to tackle, I was greatly anticipating Foster getting reps at tackle, and it is a source of great comfort to me that he performed as well as he did at right tackle. Unfortunately I didn’t take as many notes on Foster as I would have liked, but I don’t recall him ever looking out of place. With the increased amount of plays in which the team runs left, it kind of seems like he’s inclined to give 75% effort when he knows his man won’t have a shot at making the play (typical of Max Starks and Jonathan Scott on the left side in recent years), but I don’t have much to complain about. On the play before Roethlisberger’s interception, Foster struggled a bit with his man, forcing Will Johnson to give him an assist rather than occupy the free linebacker. I honestly do not have him registering a hurry that impacted a play.
Mike Adams certainly had his ups and downs. Once again, he did well in the running game, but had some key demerits in pass protection. On his first play, he and Leonard Pope are key to opening the hole for Dwyer’s big run. He had a lot of good, aggressive blocks in the run game, though there were flaws there as well. When he’s in pass protection, he rarely uses his long arms to his advantage, and in doing so allows the defender to get his hands inside, even up to his neck, allowing the defender the leverage to bounce off and around him, which resulted in about 3 or 4 pressures and a late sack with Johnson in at quarterback. At times, he was able to recover before allowing the defender to get into the quarterback’s face, but that’s not necessarily a skill you want to employ too often.
I don’t really have much to say about the rest of the linemen. Trai Essex and Kelvin Beachum were literally tossed around not infrequently. They have about as many poor plays as good. Ryan Lee and Chris Scott continued to play well, although they only entered the game on the last drive against future Burger King employees. John Malecki was inconsistent, including giving up a sack. Doug Legursky did not have much of a day to speak of. He was not asked to do much, but did his job well. Kyle Jolly did not even play.
As far as the tight ends go, Heath Miller continued to demonstrate why he is one of the most complete tight ends in the league. He has yet to catch a pass, but this is not something that needs work. He has great vision anywhere on the field, and excellent awareness for where help is needed. He’s simply a very good blocker. Not perfect, but well above average.
Leonard Pope actually had much more of a mixed bag of a day than I’d expected to find when I watched the game live. As far as receiving goes, he caught both balls that went his way, in one instance coming off a block to do so. For blocking, he had some great ones and some poor ones. On Brown’s touchdown, for example, while he did get just enough to prevent his man from getting involved in the play, the block itself was poor. On the other hand, as previously mentioned, he threw a great block on Dwyer’s big run.
He had multiple blocks in which he completely turned his man out of a hole. Then he has others where he is easily beaten and as a result forces a negative play. There are at least two or three instances where his failed block specifically caused a negative play. He was more consistent in the first game, and I hope he is more so in the future. I see enough in some of his blocks to know that he is more than capable of actually doing it, so the inconsistency is frustrating.
Anybody that says that David Paulson is not a blocking tight end simply has not watched him very closely during these two preseason games. He’s beginning to look like a Pittsburgh Steelers tight end, and it might be difficult to keep him off the roster. Unfortunately I didn’t take many notes of specific plays, but I don’t recall him having any errors. He clearly has soft hands and can make some moves once he’s got the ball. He ran a route or two out of the backfield, although I don’t believe he blocked at all from that position.
Weslye Saunders hardly played. He had one nice pass catch, and that’s about it. Jamie McCoy can not block out of the backfield. He simply does not have the runner’s vision necessary to know where he’s needed. There are at least 2 or 3 plays in which he completely makes the wrong decision out of the backfield that led to either a pressure or a short gain that could have been much more. Justin Peele, on the other hand, played like a veteran tight end. He’s not just a camp body. He has a chance to make the roster.
The blocking of the starting wide receivers was very disheartening. As much as Brown likes to praise Baron Batch and others for making plays for him with their blocks, he didn’t put much effort in returning the favor. And on Roethlisberger’s keeper, Emmanuel Sanders hardly even gave an effort to block. If he had, then there would have been a lot of room to run. I assume that Roethlisberger saw this and is why he did it. Sanders had that one “business decision” ball come his way. Brown obviously made some plays, but he also dropped two passes, though one was low.
The only other receiver that really had much of an impact was obviously David Gilreath. He got open, he made tough catches, and he showed elusiveness and the desire necessary to get tough first downs. He’s also a blocker and a special teamer. Toney Clemons did have one catch as well and is a bit of a blocker.
Jonathan Dwyer takes what is given to him. He seems to have better vision than I’d previously given him credit for and cuts it back when he sees there’s nothing there. Baron Batch had little to work with, but I also don’t think he always took the best path. He plays without hesitation or fear though. He had a couple of flaws in pass protection (in one instance both he and Will Johnson failed to block a defender on a double team and he forced a hurry on third down), but his reputation as a blocker is not undeserved. Chris Rainey was clearly a different player from last week after taking that collision, and I believe him when he said he had trouble keeping his feet afterward. He plays with the aggressiveness of a much larger back, which is a double edged sword. Everybody saw what Jason Ford did. Two good runs, one nice spin move, and then a bunch of plays that had no chance.
Re: Steelers notes on the Colts game
As for the defense, the best player on the field all night may have been Ziggy Hood. After playing only 3 snaps last week, Hood got a lot more snaps against the Colts to showcase his improvement. The two things that were most obvious is that he has developed an excellent swim move, and he has a tremendous anchor. He gives up nothing, even when double teamed, and he uses his swim move to beat his blocker(s) after forcing a stalemate with his power. He’s not a factor in every play, but he flashes a great deal of explosiveness in addition to being sound in the scheme. He also commanded a considerable number of double teams, something that was far less common last season. I’m not sure how many tackles he was ultimately credited for, but I’m confident that he was in on more tackles than a stat sheet would indicate. He’s learned well how to work down a line and beat the blocker to make a tackle. There were several instances in which he quickly disposed of his blocker and was standing there waiting for the play. He also has really good feet, in once instance stepping through an attempted cut block. He used his swim move several times in getting pressure on the quarterback. One interesting thing that I noticed is that he was frequently the sole down lineman in nickel situations, with Keisel standing up, sometimes even as an inside linebacker.
Speaking of Keisel, I felt he also had a strong game. He plays intelligently as a veteran of his years in the system should. He gets off blockers well and works his way off the edge to get to the quarterback.
For as much praise as McLendon has received this offseason, he is not a finished product just yet. It’s pretty clear that, while he has gotten bigger, he does not have Casey Hampton’s strength. There were a handful of instances in which he was knocked to the ground or blocked cleanly by one person. Yet he still showed plenty of what he showed in the first game; shedding blockers to make tackles, pushing two blockers back into the pocket, etc. He clearly is a different type of nose tackle, so it’s a good thing he doesn’t try to emulate Hampton.
I was very surprised that Corbin Bryant came on the field before, and far more often than, Al Woods. In fact, I’m not even sure how many snaps Woods got, but I expect they were few and late in the game. Bryant came in with Cameron Heyward after Keisel and Hood left. Although I thought he was more consistent than he was last week, there was also not a lot in his game worth mentioning.
The most notable thing about his play is that it suggests that he is ahead of Woods in the race for the 7th defensive line spot, although I don’t understand why, if that is indeed the case. As far as Heyward goes, I will admit that I did not watch him as closely as I would have liked. I know that he got blown off the ball more than once, but he also made a few nice plays, so it’s hard to get a read on where he is. Alameda Ta’amu was up and down, but he doesn’t look like he necessarily plays like Casey Hampton. He shows the potential to make a couple plays every now and then, shedding a blocker once to make a tackle and at another time batting down a pass off the edge.
As far as the linebackers go, I did not feel that the unit was very impactful as a whole. Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote both struggled to shed blockers at times, particularly Foote, who made Hood look bad a few times, such as on the first touchdown when Hood was double teamed and Foote was blocked out of the hole by Coby Fleener.
Outside of running too far afield once or twice in run support, allowing a play to go his way, LaMarr Woodley had a strong day. Once he did get turned out of a hole by Fleener, but on an earlier play he tossed Fleener aside with the flick of a wrist. Although he was unblocked on his sack, it was still a nice play to keep Luck in the pocket and prevent his escape.
The one thing about Chris Carter that can’t be denied is that he has a relentless motor and constantly seems to be running around the ball. He plays like an angry bee. What I don’t see, however, is his pass rush making much of an impact on plays. He seems to do a reasonable job out in pass coverage, despite getting away with a hold at one point. He shows a lot of promise, but it’s time to actually start making an impact.
Brandon Johnson did not fare nearly as well as last week. He only played inside, and he struggled to get off blocks. He also gave up the touchdown pass. Sean Spence plays a lot more instinctually than you would expect out of a rookie. He cut into the line a few times to get in on a tackle on the running play, and he can obviously cover. He almost jumped one route, although in one instance it appears that he released Reggie Wayne when he wasn’t supposed to and Luck arced the ball over his head. I don’t know what the coverage scheme was, so I don’t know if it was truly his fault, however.
Aside from his punt block Mortty Ivy did not make much of an impact backing up LaMarr Woodley. There’s not much to say about his performance. Adrian Robinson, however, continued to terrorize lesser competition. He gets a lot of pressure, though he failed to register a hit. He can get beat, however, and end up on the ground. He appears to be growing into the role of a linebacker in terms of run support and pass coverage as well. If Harrison or Worilds have to start on the PUP list, it’s likely that he makes the roster, possibly even other Johnson if they keep 8.
Ike Taylor had a few missed tackles to balance out the euphoria of his pick six. However, if I were to assign blame on the cross up between he and Polamalu on the Cortez Allen interception—or would-be touchdown pass—I would, not knowing the scheme, give it to Polamalu. Polamalu, lined up the deeper of the two, was eying down the slot receiver and Taylor was locked on the guy on the outside. However, when the slot receiver went deep, Polamalu just let him go and pursued the other receiver cutting inside.
Based on Taylor’s body language, my guess is that the outside guy was his responsibility and Polamalu was freelancing, thinking Luck would throw to the middle of the field. Other than that, there were not too many observations on Polamalu. He did have that nice tackle on 2nd and goal when he shot down the end of the line to tackle the back by his feet. Ryan Clark seemed to have a strong game though. He had a good day in run support and was a sure tackler.
Keenan Lewis’s day was pretty decent. Although he allowed some key receptions, he was always very sound in his responsibilities, and I suspect he’s still working through that shoulder injury. He wasn’t helped much when Ryan Mundy came in for Clark. Neither Mundy nor Will Allen did much of anything worth writing about. The same could be said of Myron Rolle, but Robert Golden seemed to have another good day closing in on the ball once it’s in the air. He also had a pass defensed.
Cortez Allen had a gift interception and also got away with a pretty obvious hold on a third down. Other than that, not much to say. Curtis Brown also didn’t have much of an impact on the game. I can only recall him being targeted twice, both on bubble screens. One was incomplete, but he was in position for a tackle for loss. The other one, he made a sure tackle, but not before a first down.
Right now, it seems like Josh Victorian is the 5th cornerback. He has played the best, and also was visible on special teams multiple times. In the meantime, Walter McFadden and Terrence Frederick had rough days. For what it’s worth, Frederick seems to be the better tackler. Obviously Victorian’s interception (and near interception the week before) are strong arguments in his favor, but he appeared to play well in general.
Re: Steelers notes on the Colts game
RE: Bryant versus Woods
Sometimes the player less likely to be lept gets more playking time, so that the coaches can evaluate just what they have... before cuttign him. If they know that they want to keep Woods, but are unsure of Bryant, then they would need to see more/as much of Bryant as they could, before cutting him.
A few years ago, this happened with two of the back-up linebackers (the names escape me). Anyway, the LB that I thought played better got almost no snaps in the second & third game; meanwhile, the other LB played a lot. Then... that other LB got cut.
Re: Steelers notes on the Colts game
You're right, that's a good point. I assume you're thinking of Patrick Bailey and/or Donovan Woods, btw.
Re: Steelers notes on the Colts game
solid, in depth breakdown.
As for emmanuel sanders "business decision" alot of people have commented on it, even nationally. chris collinsworth really did sanders a disservice on what was a heads up play.
you cannot tight rope the line and climb the ladder for a ball with a defender a yard or 2 away from you, bearing down from a frontal angle.
there is no longer a "pushed out of bounds" rule, and all the defender had to do was sneeze and sanders was coming down out of bounds.
lynn swann couldnt have made that catch.
teh qb has to make that throw in stride with no leap when trying to fit it in such a tight window sandwiched between 2 defenders. (see eli in the superbowl).
Re: Steelers notes on the Colts game
Oh, that definitely wasn't a knock on Sanders. Given his injury history over the past 18 months or so, I absolutely do not want to see him taking a risk like going up for a ball like that with a safety bearing down on him in a meaningless game. Especially since, as you said, chances are he would've been pushed out of bounds anyway.
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