Steelers film session: Polamalu not at fault on long run
By Mark Kaboly
Published: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, 10:24 p.m.
Troy Polamalu may have shouldered the blame for one of the decisive plays during Sunday's 34-28 loss to Miami, but the All-Pro strong safety-playing-linebacker was exactly where he was supposed to be and executed his assignment perfectly.
With four minutes to go and the Steelers holding on to a 28-24 lead, Miami's Daniel Thomas ran 55 yards nearly untouched to the Steelers' 16-yard line behind the block of Mike Pouncey that set up the game-winning touchdown from Ryan Tannehill to Charles Clay two plays later.
Polamalu's responsibility on the play was to punch the gap and take out the pulling offensive lineman, in this case, Pouncey. Polamalu did that, but his small stature for an inside linebacker (210 pounds) prevented him from blowing up the play.
Polamalu, played 30 of the 60 defensive snaps at inside linebacker — something he's been forced to do since the season-ending injury to Larry Foote on opening day.
Ultimately, the play was successful for the Dolphins because Clay was able to hook linebacker LaMarr Woodley — who was playing on the right side for the first time in his career — thus allowing Thomas to find a seam after Pouncey turned up and blocked Polamalu and Sam Brenner kicked out safety Will Allen.
It was similar to a play the Dolphins ran earlier in the game to the other side but managed only a handful of yards because Jason Worilds was able to set the edge.
Other than that, Woodley played pretty well despite flipping to the other side of the defense.
Woodley played 41 snaps and finished with a pair of quarterback hurries and hits on only 17 pass-rushing attempts. Woodley added three tackles but was on the field for 31 of Miami's 34 points.
The Steelers shuffled Woodley in and out of the game, only allowing him to play five consecutive snaps once out of the 13 defensive series.
• The Steelers had been doing a good job of tackling ever since hitting a low point during a Week 4 loss against Minnesota. But on Sunday, the Steelers missed 15 tackles that resulted in 51 extra yards for the Dolphins. The main culprits were Lawrence Timmons and Polamalu with three each. Cortez Allen had a pair, as well as Will Allen. Four times there were multiple missed tackles on one play, including the game-winning touchdown by Charles Clay when he shook Cortez Allen twice and Polamalu once.
• Ike Taylor has been following the team's best receiver for the better part of the past eight seasons. Against the Dolphins, Taylor, who has struggled the past three weeks, stayed put on the right side for the entire game and was matched up against Brian Hartline instead of the speedy Mike Wallace. There were only five instances that Taylor did not line up across from Hartline, with the majority of those occurring because Hartline was in the slot. Taylor typically does not cover receivers in the slot. However, the one time he did Sunday resulted in a touchdown. With the Dolphins lined up with twins right and Hartline in the slot and Wallace wide, Taylor lined up in the slot across from Hartline instead of switching with Cortez Allen. Earlier in the game, the Dolphins had twins to the other side of the formation and William Gay played the slot and Taylor slid outside to guard Wallace. Taylor allowed only three catches for 39 yards in the game.
• It seemed like Le'Veon Bell wasn't a big part of the Steelers' game plan during the second half. That wasn't the case. Bell touched the ball or was targeted 12 times in each half. The majority of Bell's carries came during the second drive of the game when the weather was at its worst. He was involved in nine of the 12 plays during the Steelers' first touchdown drive.
• With Thomas' 55-yarder and Tannehill's 48-yarder, the Steelers' defense has allowed a run of 20 yards or longer in five games. They've lost all five. They also have given up passes of 50 yards or longer in five games and lost four.
• Jarvis Jones still is making rookie mistakes. The Dolphins targeted Jones' aggressive nature the first series he entered the game with a read option. Jones crashed down on the running back allowing Tannehill to keep the ball and gain 48 yards through the space Jones vacated.
• The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger used the no-huddle on only two of their first 33 plays with one of those resulting in a sack. However, the second half was much different. The Steelers used the no-huddle on 16 of 33 plays in the second half, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown early in the third. For the game, the Steelers ran the no-huddle 19 times — 7 of 11 passing for 118 yards, six rushes for 21 yards and two sacks.
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