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Steelers Film Session: Defense had no answers against Patriots

| Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
USA Today Sports
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley scores a touchdown against safety Troy Polamalu and the Steelers during the second half Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013.
USA Today Sports
The Patriots' Stevan Ridley tries to elude Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas during the third quarter Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau seemingly had no answer for Tom Brady and New England's offense during Sunday's loss to the Patriots.

A franchise-record 55 points allowed and a franchise-record 610 yards allowed would indicate as much, but it wasn't like the 76-year-old Hall of Famer didn't try just about everything he's learned during his 50-plus year professional football career.

LeBeau used his base defense (two corners, two safeties) 34 times.

LeBeau used his quarter package defense (three corners, three safeties) 25 times.

LeBeau even dusted off the nickel package (three corners, two safeties) nine times and threw in a couple of rarely seen cross-dog blitzes from inside linebackers. LeBeau even used the press-man scheme that the Steelers' defense has had success with.

Nothing worked, and a portion of that was because how balanced the Patriots were no matter what defense was on the field.

When the Steelers were in base, the Patriots ran 18 times and threw 16.

When they were in quarters, the Pats threw 13 and ran 12.

When they were in nickel, they ran five and threw four times.

The biggest issue with the Steelers' defense was their nickel package. They've rarely used that package this year, deferring more to the quarters.

The first time the Steelers used the nickel resulted in a 34-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola. The defense also yielded a 57-yard pass to Amendola and a 14-yard run by Brandon Bolden.

LeBeau went away from the defense in the second half, calling it only once.

As for the press-man coverage, LeBeau didn't use that defense until 14 plays into the game, with the majority of that tactic not being used until late in the second half when the Pats were using only one receiver.

• Ben Roethlisberger loves using the no-huddle offense, and that was apparent against the Patriots. The Steelers used the no-huddle almost exclusively over the final nine drives with great success. Roethlisberger, who calls the plays in the no-huddle from about 75 percent of the playbook, led the Steelers to all of their 31 points when he called the plays. Roethlisberger ran 33 plays out of the no-huddle and went 16 of 27 for 217 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Roethlisberger also called four run plays that resulted in 43 yards. The final stat line: 260 yards and two touchdowns on 33 plays when Roethlisberger called the plays; 219 yards and two touchdowns on 40 plays when offensive coordinator Todd Haley called the plays.

• The Steelers continue to use rookie running back Le'Veon Bell in a variety of ways and in a multitude of different formations. But when it comes to running the ball Bell did his most damage out of the shotgun. Bell rushed for 47 yards on five carries from the shotgun, but managed only 28 yards on 10 carries from a single setback formation. Bell rushed once with a fullback, and that resulted in a failed fourth-down conversion. As for the passing game, Bell was targeted 10 times (including penalties) and caught four passes for 65 yards. Two of those receptions were screens that resulted in 38 yards.

• At times, Roethlisberger was running for his life against the Patriots, but you can't just assume that by the fact that he was sacked five times. Each one of Roethlisberger's sacks had a reason attached to it. On the first one, tackles Marcus Gilbert and Kelvin Beachum attempted to cut-block the defensive end. When that tactic is applied, it means that the play is designed to be a quick-hitting slant. Roethlisberger held the ball and was sacked. The second was similar, with Beachum cutting Chandler Jones, but Roethlisberger was forced to hold onto the ball because receiver Antonio Brown got tangled with cornerback Kyle Arrington and stumbled. The third sack was Roethlisberger scrambling forward into the sack because Gilbert didn't know where he was. The fourth and fifth sacks were Roethlisberger trying to make plays by holding onto the ball for 3.5 and 6 seconds.

• William Gay has had as solid of a first half of the season as anybody on the roster. That didn't stop the Patriots from targeting Gay all game. Gay was thrown at 12 times by Brady, and he allowed seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. The player who had the best game against Gay was Aaron Dobson, who had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.

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