The Steelers have an abundance of weapons on offense. There aren’t too many defensive schemes that actually work well against them. But when you repeatedly give their receivers free releases, you have absolutely no chance. Just ask the Panthers, who allowed 52 points vs Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
It started on the first play. Stay focused on the bottom of the screen. No jam at the line. No disruption. Do you know what that did? It allowed the two routes to mesh together with near perfect timing and put cornerback, James Bradberry (#24), in conflict.
In this coverage, Bradberry’s responsibility was the deep third of the field. The route that attacked that area became the slot receiver’s route. However, as the play was unfolding, both receivers could have been challenging his zone by going deep. Bradberry tried to read Ben Roethlisberger’s eyes and bit hard on his pump fake. He guessed wrong, and the play worked perfectly for Pittsburgh, probably exactly as it did during Wednesday’s walk-thru at practice with no defense on the field.
How about this play below? Nothing to disrupt Big Ben in the pocket. Nothing to disrupt Antonio Brown at the bottom of the screen. The free release enabled Brown to attack a safety and give the Steelers a very advantageous 1-on-1 matchup.
That was basically just a long hand-off.
On the below touchdown, watch #89 on the left side of the screen. That’s tight end Vance McDonald. He ran untouched through Carolina’s underneath coverage. This allowed Big Ben to plant, hitch, and deliver his throw with perfect timing.
Panthers defenders didn’t give themselves much of a chance on that play.
In all fairness to Carolina, cornerback Donte Jackson did get burned by Antonio Brown for a 53-yard touchdown while playing man-press (although he didn’t manage to disrupt Brown at the line, which is the key).
We didn’t say there was a single answer to stopping an offense as talented as Pittsburgh’s. Still, you have to find ways to disrupt the timing of their passing game. This is true of most offenses, but especially of Pittsburgh’s. The Panthers didn’t manage to do that at all on Thursday.
The Steelers are among the hottest teams in the league right now. During their five-game winning streak, they have scored 35.4 points per game. Ben Roethlisberger has completed more than 68% of his passes at a rate of 8.05 yards per attempt, with 13 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions during that stretch. After a less than stellar start to the season, Pittsburgh looks like it is finally hitting its stride.
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