Steelers film session: Brown, Allen struggle to keep up
Filling Ike Taylor's role in the Steelers' secondary proved to be a painful exercise Sunday against San Diego.
Taylor missed his first game since 2004, and Philip Rivers and Co. took advantage, especially on third downs, by targeting second-year man Curtis Brown, who entered the game in the Steelers' sub-package defenses.
Brown allowed four first-down catches — two to Michael Spurlock and two to Danario Alexander — in his 26 snaps. Overall, Brown was targeted six times and allowed six catches for 84 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Alexander late in the first half before getting benched in the fourth quarter for Josh Victorian, who later gave up a touchdown.
But Brown wasn't the only one who struggled replacing Taylor.
Cortez Allen, who got the start at right cornerback but moved to the slot in the nickel, was targeted seven times, giving up six catches for 46 yards, including three third-down conversions.
Most of Rivers' success on third downs came on the same route: the out pattern. Of Rivers' 41 attempts, 14 were out patterns, seven of which resulted in first downs. Rivers finished 9 of 14 for 67 yards when he targeted an out-cutting receiver.
• The Steelers' offensive line has done a good job of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this year, but not against the Chargers. Roethlisberger was sacked twice, hit four other times and was forced out of the pocket on scrambles five other times. The Chargers blitzed Roethlisberger only 11 times.
• Despite a sore shoulder than kept him out of three games, Roethlisberger didn't hesitate to throw the ball deep. He threw passes 46, 41, 40 and 40 yards down the field, completing only one: a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. Coming into the game, Roethlisberger attempted only four passes of at least 40 yards in 358 attempts.
• The Steelers dressed five receivers for the first time this season but used a four-receiver set only once — the first play of the game. Still, the offense was able to work all five receivers into the game for multiple snaps.
• Coach Mike Tomlin used the term “double vice” a couple of weeks ago to describe the way Baltimore blocked on a punt return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones. That “double vice” came back and squeezed the Steelers once again, but this time while they were trying it themselves. On San Diego's third-quarter fake punt, the Steelers used two men on each one of the Chargers' outside gunners in hopes of giving Antonio Brown more time to return the kick. However, the “double vices” create a mismatch of eight punt team players blocking five punt return players on the line of scrimmage, and the Chargers took advantage. Needing only three yards, the Chargers snapped the ball to up-back Eric Weddle, who only had to outrun Robert Golden to the sideline to gain the necessary yardage to move the chains.
• Much-maligned defensive end Ziggy Hood put together one of his best games. Hood still had trouble getting off double teams, but he was able to make plays, especially with the Chargers' screen game. Hood recognized screen passes on three occasions — to Antonio Gates, Ronnie Brown and Le'Ron McClain — to force incompletions. Hood also stayed at home during a trick play in which Alexander was going to throw the ball, and he made a handful of tackles in the run game, including a couple of nice plays on Ryan Mathews.
• The Steelers were successful when pressuring Rivers. He completed only 3 of 11 passes for 24 yards when pressured. When he wasn't, he threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers blitzed him 22 times. Dick LeBeau sent inside linebacker Larry Foote (16) the most since a Week 6 game against Tennessee, while fellow inside backer Lawrence Timmons blitzed just nine times. James Harrison (28) and Jason Worilds (25) combined to blitz 53 times but did not sack Rivers.
BY THE NUMBERS
Percent of snaps Mike Wallace played a week after playing only 61 percent.
Other receivers' snap percentage
93.9: Antonio Brown
63.6: Emmanuel Sanders
18.2: Jerricho Cotchery
10.6: Plaxico Burress
Yards the Steelers had in the final 10 minutes of the game
Yards the Steelers had in the first 50 minutes
Times the Steelers started a drive inside their 10
Consecutive field goals Shaun Suisham has made
Yards after contact Jonathan Dwyer gained. He finished with 32 rushing yards.
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.