Steelers film session: Old-fashioned power football produces victory
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Steelers offense ran a lot of no-huddle, plenty of shotgun and a bunch of empty sets.
While it produced yards, it didn't produce that much in a way of points, especially over the final six quarters heading into Sunday's game against Carolina.
Meanwhile, blocking tight end Matt Spaeth played 17 snaps. Fullback/tight end Will Johnson was on the field for only three.
Against Carolina, that all changed.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley dusted off of two rarely used players and used them as catalyst to his game plan against one of the best defenses in the league.
That game plan was old-fashioned power football.
The Steelers set aside their aerial attack for a week and dusted off a game plan of using two and three tight end sets along with a handful of plays with a fullback.
It resulted in something that hadn't happened in 28 years and 44 years, respectively.
The Steelers had two running backs go over 100 yards in the same game for the first time since 1986 and had its longest run since 1970 when Le'Veon Bell broke off a 81-yard burst during the decisive third quarter of Sunday's 37-19 win over Carolina.
The majority of those yards came with Heath Miller, Spaeth and Johnson in the game.
Haley had a three-tight grouping in the game 14 times that resulted in 154 yards rushing, including Bell's 81-yard gallop.
He used two tight end sets 11 times — six rushes resulting in 64 yards and five passes for 9 yards.
The Steelers even used two tight ends twice when they went to an empty set, and also employed Johnson as prototypical fullback as a lead blocker five times.
• The Steelers suffered three potentially significant injuries on defense when Ike Taylor broke his forearm, Jarvis Jones hurt his wrist and Ryan Shazier injured his knee. All three came from teammate collisions. Taylor's injury, as documented on the telecast, was caused when Lawrence Timmons accidentally hit Taylor's arm with his helmet while trying to make a tackle. Jones' wrist injury happened when he rammed into Brett Keisel's left knee while forcing a Cam Newton fumble early in the third quarter. Jones' wrist folded backward toward his body. Shazier's knee injury happened when Timmons was blocked back into his knee while tackling Jonathan Stewart.
• Give Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith credit for changing the cadence on the field goal attempt early in the second half that caused two Carolina defenders to jump offsides during a fourth-and-4. The Steelers attempted three field goals before that one, and on each occasion, Greg Warren snapped the ball after holder Brad Wing's second call. On the offsides play, the cadence was at least on “three” as the two defenders jumped after the second one.
• The Steelers missed 16 tackles against the Ravens that resulted in an extra 93 yards of offense. The Steelers cleaned that up significantly against the Panthers after a week's worth of practice in which they emphasized tackling. The Steelers missed only five tackles (two came on one play) that resulted in only 21 extra yards. Stewart picked up an extra 13 yards on a 15-yard run when he broke tackles from Cam Thomas and Shazier. Also missing tackles were William Gay, Sean Spence and Jason Worilds. A week after missing a game-high five tackles last week, Timmons didn't miss one against the Panthers.
• Dick LeBeau dialed up a number of different blitzes to put pressure on Newton, but it was when he went vanilla on defense when the Steelers dialed up the most pressure. LeBeau sent only three rushers at Newton 16 times, with half of the resulting in pressure and two sacks — Cam Heyward and Jones. One of the reasons the Steelers went with three pass rushers a lot was that Jason Worilds was employed to spy on Newton.
• The Steelers didn't go to the no-huddle offense much against the Panthers, using the formation only 11 times for 65 yards. It was the fewest number of times they used the no-huddle in 10 games dating to last year's win over Buffalo. Ben Roethlisberger completed 5 of 7 for 47 yards and was sacked once. Le'Veon Bell carried three times for 18 yards. The Steelers didn't use the no-huddle at all in the second half.
• The shotgun continues to be a big part of the Steelers offense. Roethlisberger went out of the shotgun 33 times against the Panthers for 246 yards. The Steelers have run plays out of the shotgun 56 percent of the time through three weeks.
• Marcus Gilbert struggled through the first two weeks of the season by allowing four sacks. So one would think that against one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL in Carolina that the Steelers would give Gilbert help. They didn't. Out of Roethlisberger's 31 dropbacks, Gilbert didn't receive as much as chip from a tight end or a running back while going up against Charles Johnson for the majority of the game. Gilbert didn't allow a sack or a quarterback hit.
• The Steelers were able to get to the second level and block linebackers with relative ease against the Panthers. Nobody was better than reserve guard Cody Wallace. On a number of occasions, Wallace got to linebackers Luke Kuechly and A.J. Klein.
by the numbers
Time Carolina ran the zone stretch play
Plays of 30 yards or longer by the Steelers
Yards the Steelers rushed for over center or right guard
Yards Steelers gained on first down
Yards after contact by Bell and Blount
Defenders Antonio Brown caught a pass against
Passes Roethlisberger threw less than 10 yards
Times Cortez Allen was targeted