To a man, the Steelers said nothing changed defensively during the second half of Sunday’s 37-27 victory over Detroit from the debacle of a second quarter that saw the Lions put up 267 yards and 27 points.
They said the reason why they held Calvin Johnson without a catch and the Lions to 72 total yards over the final 30 minutes were, simply, that they played better.
Well, that was indeed the case.
Taking a very unscientific look at the schematics of the Steelers’ defense in the first half compared to the second half revealed that when it came to the number of safeties employed deep, it was indeed the same.
Now, the final numbers are skewed a little bit and especially in the fourth quarter because the Steelers took a two-score lead, but overall, it is a good indication that Dick LeBeau didn’t change up the defense drastically from one half to the other.
Now, a good part of the credit has to go to the Steelers’ offense for keeping the Lions off the field for the majority of the second half thus limiting opportunities, but the defense did play much better.
The Steelers mostly employed their quarter package, but where they aligned their safeties was telling. Here’s the All-22 breakdown of how the Steelers played their back half of their defense (when decipherable).
First quarter: 1 deep safety (13); 2 deep safeties (6)
Second quarter: 1 deep safety (10); 2 deep safeties (10)
Third quarter: 1 deep safety (8), 2 deep safeties (6)
Fourth quarter: 1 deep safety (1); 2 deep safeties (10)
Total: 1 deep safety (32); 2 deep safeties (32).
Incidentally, both of Matthew Stafford’s touchdown passes were when the Steelers had only one deep safety in the middle of the field.