Taking a look back at the Steelers-Patriots game on my DVR.
We all are quick to give credit to Dick LeBeau and the Steelers’ defense on what he was able to do to bring the great Tom Brady to his knees, and deservedly so.
To totally flip the script and go almost exclusively press man with a deep safety to protect the deep ball was absolute genius by LeBeau.
It forced Brady to do a pre-snap read and stick with it rather than go through his progression to find the open receiver, which we all knew Brady is deadly doing.
Looking back on it now, it was brilliance because the Patriots really don’t have much talent on offense other than Brady and a couple of tight ends.
Even though LeBeau’s plan was flawless, Bruce Arians’ game plan was even better.
The Steelers’ offense have been predicated on throwing the ball deep to make splash plays and get quick scores.
The Patriots knew that, and coupled with very average-to-bad defensive backs, Bill Belichick had no choice but to play off coverage and keep two safeties deep regardless of what the Steelers were doing.
Going short with passes was Ben Roethlisberger’s best option, and he never strayed from that, and the Pats never adjusted – or better yet, couldn’t adjust.
Roethlisberger threw the ball in the air an average of 6.3 yards per pass play against the Patriots.
Take away two 33-yard blatant throw-aways, and that numbers dips down to 5.3 yards in the air per pass play.
That number is ridiculous, but very effective.
Here are the Roethlisberger’s throws and how far they traveled in the air: 7, 8, 4, 3, -2, 5, 8, 2, 3, 5, 10, 0, 5, 5, 17, -2, 2, -2, 8, 14, 0, 10, 14, -1, 5, 1, 10, 13, -3, 5, 5, 33, 0, -2, 4, 15, 17, 20, 5, 4, 7, 16, 3, 4, 0, 5, 6, 0, 33, -2.
* If Ike Taylor doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this year then there is something really wrong.
Week after week he shuts down the opposition’s best, and the Patriots Wes Welker isn’t only one of the best, he presented a new challenge for Taylor.
Covering a small and speedy receiver in the slot is very different than covering big, strong guys on the outside.
Taylor allowed Welker to catch only 4 passes for 23 yards.
Early on, it appeared the Steelers weren’t going to subject Taylor to covering Welker in the slot at all.
Regardless of pass, run or even a penalty wiping out the play before it started, Taylor lined up on Welker only six times during New England’s first three series (17 plays).
After that, Taylor lined up opposite Welker 18 times in a row when Welker was in the game, and 31 of the final 35 plays when Welker was in the game.
All in all, Taylor lined up across Welker and play straight man-to-man coverage on 37 of 57 plays.
Here’s the updated Taylor catch allowed list at the midway point:
Wes Welker, New England 4-23 yards
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona 3-58 yards
Andre Johnson, Houston 3-23 yards
Nate Washington, Tennessee 2-11 yards
Rob Housler, Arizona 1-20 yards
Jason Hill, Jacksonville 1-18 yards, TD
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis 1-11 yards
Deion Branch, New England 1-10 yards
Mike Williams, Seattle 1-9 yards
Damian Williams, Tennessee 1-8 yards
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville 1-3 yards
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis 1-(-2) yards
* Arians finally decided to run some to the left against the Patriots.
The Steelers ran eight times to the left for 43 yards and 15 times to the right for 55 yards.
* A lot of credit for this win has to go to the offensive line.
Easily, it was the best effort by the five guys up front, but we actually should’ve expected it.
What the Steelers’ offensive line is good at is being road graters – moving people out of the way. Those guys are pretty darn big up front and always do well against a bigger defensive line.
And it is pretty hard to get any bigger than Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth and Gerard Warren.
Ramon Foster totally handled Wilfork time and time again with help occasionally from Maurkice Pouncey.
Sure, Roethlisberger was sacked five times, but let’s look at these sacks.
Andre Carter’s first sack came six seconds after the ball was snapped; his second came four seconds; and Wilfork’s came after five seconds. Safe to say you blame those on the quarterback.
The other two came on the last series when Roethlisberger didn’t want to throw the ball away and accepted the sack.
How good the line played against the Pats probably will be how bad they will play against the Ravens.
The Ravens have much, much more speed on the outside and inside, and that is something the Steelers have trouble dealing with.
* There was some talk that Wilfork’s hit on Roethlisberger in the first quarter should’ve been a roughing the pass penalty.
Well, it wasn’t, and shouldn’t have been a penalty.
Look close and you will see tackle Marcus Gilbert delivering a blow to Wilfork’s back that propelled the 400-pounder into Roethlisberger.
* I am sure some Steelers aren’t going to be happy Wednesday when they get to their locker.
Surely there will be numerous fines handed out by the league to the Steelers, and rightfully so.
Here is my list of who might get fined:
Chris Kemoeatu: Hands to the face of Gerard Warren
Ryan Clark: Helmet-to-facemask hit on the first play of the third quarter on BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Clark: Personal foul helmet-to-helmet penalty on Rob Gronkowski with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
Troy Polamalu: Hit to the head of Welker late in the game.
Chris Carter: Hands-to-the-face of tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
* Speaking of Carter, he sure had an impressive burst off the edge while rushing the passer while filling in for LaMarr Woodley.
However, let’s not crown him the next Lawrence Taylor.
Carter is too small and not strong enough to break through arm blocks of tackles that already have been beaten.
You saw it time and time again against the Pats.
* Boy, Larry Foote played well. He made plays in the running game and was solid in the passing game as well.
Maybe I was wrong when I said earlier in the year that Foote wasn’t as good as James Farrior.
OK, I was wrong.
* The Patriots sure did screw up late when Gronkowski clearly scored, but the line judge marked the ball at the 1-yard line.
Belichick said he didn’t see a replay and couldn’t make the challenge with the information he had.
Reason for that was that the Patriots went right to the line thus preventing CBS to show a replay.
What made it worse was that Brady took the full 40 seconds to run the play. If he would’ve huddled up, a replay would’ve been shown.
Blame Brady on this one, he needs to know better.
* Clark might be light a few thousand bucks after the game, but there was nobody out there who played with more passion and intensity than him.
Just look at that play where he turned away Kevin Faulk at the 1-yard line.
Clark recognized the formation immediately and sprinted to where Faulk was heading just to meet him in time to keep him out of the end zone.
One of the best play’s I’ve seen all year long.
Grading the Starters
QB – Ben Roethlisberger – A+ (Wow, just wow)
RB – Rashard Mendenhall – B (Didn’t need him, but ran hard)
TE/FB – David Johnson – B (Remains a solid blocker)
WR – Mike Wallace – A (Showed discipline)
WR – Emmanuel Sanders – A (Very polished for a young guy)
WR – Antonio Brown – A (Made some beautiful catches)
TE – Heath Miller – A+ (Did it all)
LT – Max Starks – B (Has yet to be really tested)
LG – Chris Kemoeatu – B (Needs to cut down dumb penalties)
C – Maurkice Pouncey – B (Held his own with some big boys)
RG – Ramon Foster – B (Controlled Wilfork)
RT – Marcus Gilbert – B (Very powerful man)
DE – Ziggy Hood – B (Disruptive at times)
NT – Casey Hampton – B (Didn’t play much, was good when he did)
DE – Brett Keisel – B+ (Made a play when needed)
LB – LaMarr Woodley – A (Can’t be stopped)
LB – Stevenson Slyvester – C (Out of position some, but that’s expected)
LB – Larry Foote – A (Best game in years)
LB – Lawrence Timmons – B (Helped out defending the pass well)
CB – Ike Taylor – A (Very physical cornerback)
CB – William Gay – A (Playing lights out)
CB – Keenan Lewis – A (Very good speed)
S – Troy Polamalu – B (Very smart football player)
S – Ryan Clark – A (Set a tone)
By Mark Kaboly