This week, I’m going to go back and review the painful road loss to Pittsburgh. Dan already showed you what’s wrong with the Ravens’ run game. But I wanted to know what else contributed to Baltimore’s narrow loss. I also decided to go back to my Know Your Enemy piece to see how much of what I predicted came true, while giving a glimpse into the plays that helped turn the game in the Steelers’ favor.
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The Steelers used a lot of motion plays, as I predicted in my KYE article. They had both Antonio Brown and Heath Miller moving all around pre-snap. However, my prediction about Heath Miller in motion was only partially successful. I said, “My scouting note for the day is that whenever Miller went in motion but returned to his original spot, the Steelers often ran the ball right behind him on that play.”
Well, that wasn’t always the case. Let’s take a look.
Here, the Steelers are in their 11 personnel. Miller goes in motion from the left but returns to his original spot (“yo-yo” motion). Based on my prediction, this should be a run to the strong side.
But nope. It’s a pass. Miller runs a shallow dig and the RB (Bell) sneaks out into the flat. However, I wasn’t completely wrong. The Steelers did occasionally run behind Miller after he went in motion:
Here, Miller is lined up as a blocking back. He goes in motion until he’s behind Roethlisberger, then returns to his original spot.
This time, it’s a running play. It’s also one of many examples of Haloti Ngata facing a tough double team. For those wondering why he’s been invisible lately, part of the reason is that he’s getting a ton of attention from opposing offensive lines. You’ll see the center and the RG in the image above both blocking him.
I like this play for another reason: More proof of Webb’s value defending the run. If you look at the second image, the Steelers get a hat on all four playside defenders except for Webb. Then, in the image above, you see Bell cut toward the endzone with just Webb to beat. But Bell never makes it there.
I noted in my preview piece that the Steelers put Antonio Brown in motion, too. They use an “orbit” motion with him to eventually set up a trick play such as the end-around or the end-around pass. In this play, Brown doesn’t go in motion pre-snap, but he will run toward the QB in the backfield after the snap as if he’s taking a handoff. Meanwhile, the QB will hand off the the RB instead, creating initial confusion about who has the ball. Just a second of hesitation from the defense makes a world of difference.
Now, prior to the snap, the fullback goes in motion into the wingback spot. He will eventually come across the formation and cut off the backside defender, Suggs. As you can see, the blocking scheme leaves Suggs untouched by the line. This is where so many of the Ravens running plays have failed. But here, the Steelers get a good enough block on Suggs that Bell is able to scoot past him for a big gain.
Right here, you see Suggs crashing in. The FB, Will Johnson has nearly reached him to make his block. Roethlisberger is handing off to Bell, but Antonio Brown is also close behind. You can see where this play sets up future plays, specifically a fake to Bell and a handoff to Brown instead. Finally, the TE is going to reach ILB Jameel McClain and seal him off. As long as Johnson cuts Suggs, there will be a huge gap for Bell…
Yep. Bell should easily have a 15-20 yard gain here, especially with only Matt Elam to beat upfield. However, McClain fights off his block enough to force Bell to cut the run back inside, where Ngata makes an incredibly athletic, leaping tackle (with an assist from Daryl Smith).
One of the wrinkles in the Steelers offense not in my preview piece is the Wildcat. Pittsburgh direct snapped the ball to Le’Veon Bell a few times during the Ravens game to see what their rookie running back can do. Let’s take a look at one of these Wildcat plays.
There’s a lot going on in this image. First, you see QB Ben Roethlisberger aligned at the very top of the screen. And once again, Antonio Brown is going to run toward the ball as if he’s taking a handoff (this time, though, he’s in the slot). Meanwhile, the RG is going to pull and block the playside LB. FB Will Johnson is going to lead block for Bell, who takes the snap and keeps it himself.
There are a few things we can take away from the Steelers’ offense. First of all, they seemed to be pulling out all the stops in the first quarter against the Ravens. Motion, direct snaps, zone runs, power runs, and of course the shovel-pass-touchdown to Heath Miller. Pittsburgh scored 10 quick points, but I thought that late in the second quarter, they began to get conservative with their playcalling. It lasted into the fourth quarter and allowed the Ravens to tie the game.
Secondly, the Ravens watched a team run all over them for a second week in a row – and Pittsburgh doesn’t have a very good offensive line. Clearly there is a way for playcalling to put players in positions to succeed, so Baltimore is hopefully looking over this game and taking some notes.
Down Goes Flacco
We all know the offensive line has struggled in the run game, but Joe hasn’t had much help in the passing game either. He was only sacked once in the Pittsburgh game (more on that below) but he was also hurried 9 other times. Let’s take a look at the sack to see what happened.
The Steelers are in something resembling the Ravens’ psycho/amoeba front here. They don’t have a single defender with a hand on the ground, nor do they have a DT in the game. In this image, from left to right, you see #99 RDE Brett Keisel, #94 LB Lawrence Timmons, #97 LDE Cameron Heyward, #93 LB Jason Worilds, Lamarr Woodley, #43 S Troy Polamalu, and #29 S Thomas Shamarko.
Timmons is going to drop into a shallow middle zone while Woodley and Worilds are going to run a “TEX” stunt on the offensive right. Worilds looks right but crashes left while Woodley loops overtop of him and attacks the A gap. Not an outrageous stunt, but combined with the amoeba front, confusion ensues.
Here’s the stunt in action. Yanda has picked up Worilds, but there was either no switch call between him and Oher, or Oher simply missed the stunt. He’s totally lost in this image. Meanwhile, Ray Rice sees Woodley looping into the A gap and knows it’s up to him to stop the Steelers best pass rusher.
Rice has picked up Woodley (sort of), attempting to cut block him. Ultimately, this won’t work. But let’s also take a look at something else. Including Torrey Smith on the left, you can see eight Ravens players in this image. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is rushing four, with Troy Polamalu coming on a delay from the very right side of the screen. That means there are three Ravens receivers (aside from Torrey) against five Pittsburgh defenders. Even without the pressure from Woodley, the math alone dooms this play.