Steelers Rewind

Matthew Marczi watched the tape and broke down the Steelers' protection, their pass rush, and their red-zone offense.

The Steelers won a pivotal game over the Detroit Lions on the back of a vintage late-game Ben Roethlisberger performance, keeping their fledgling hopes of a playoff berth alive.

He might not have been able to do so without the help of Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert, his two starting tackles, who kept the pocket clean for nearly the entire game.

Some may want to diminish the feat, with Roethlisberger firing off quick passes against a pair of undistinguished defensive ends minus Ziggy Ansah for most of the game.

Given that he'd been sacked 14 times over the previous three games though, clean pockets are rightfully a big story in Pittsburgh, and he was only sacked once against Detroit.

Starting in place of Ansah was fellow rookie Devin Taylor, who also started last week and went without a tackle. This week was no different versus Beachum, who had his best game at left tackle since taking over the job and virtually shut down the left side of the pass rush.

While Gilbert's stat sheet wasn't quite as flawless, he too kept the right side pressure quiet for most of the game.

The only demerits of note came on an early 3rd-and-goal that forced a throwaway and the 3rd-and-9 that helped ignite the game-winning drive. Ndamukong Suh had Gilbert doing the bunny hop into the end zone on that play and pushed him into Roethlisberger as the quarterback delivered a strike to Antonio Brown for a first down.


Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has avoided pressure for most of the season by firing off quick passes, even if it means tossing the ball up to his lengthy targets when he can't see the play. He only took 10 sacks in nine games coming into the day, but the Steelers were able to get to him twice.

The catalyst for much of Pittsburgh's pass rush was Jason Worilds, who seems to have finally gotten the hang of the spin move that he'd been working on since his rookie season. He rode that whirlwind for most of his five quarterback hits, including a sack that nearly went for a safety.

Though starting at left outside linebacker, Worilds was moved all over, so his pressure came from different spots as well. His sack, for example, came off a spin move on left guard Rob Sims that carried him around left tackle Riley Reiff.

Before the sack, he used the spin move on right guard Larry Warford to get around the edge of right tackle LaAdrian Waddle for a quarterback hit. Jarvis Jones engaged the tackle on both plays to set up the spin to the outside.


The last two plays the Steelers ran within 20 yards of the goal line ended in touchdowns. The first 14 ended in heartache.

Pittsburgh repeatedly struggled to move the ball once they cracked the red zone against the Lions, continuing a troubling theme that has run the course of the season. This time, it was clearly down to execution.

Four plays in particular stand out as red-zone failures, most in a goal-to-go scenario. Each one should have ended in a touchdown pass, and their combined failure cost the Steelers 12 points.

Early in the second quarter, Le'Veon Bell let a pass bounce off his hands on 2nd-and-6 that would have been a walk-in touchdown. Just a couple minutes later, Heath Miller high-pointed a dart in the back of the end zone, only to let it slip loose as he came to the ground.

Roethlisberger missed a wide open David Paulson on 2nd-and-goal midway through the third quarter, sailing the pass over his head. All three misses forced the Steelers to settle for field goals.

Even during the game-winning drive, Brown dropped the pass on 1st-and-goal on a perfectly placed ball. Were it not for a pass interference call on the following play, the Steelers may not have gotten into the end zone on that drive.

They finally did breach the goal line though, during their fourth play, run from the one-yard line, on a pass to Will Johnson not dissimilar to the one Brown dropped.

Jerricho Cotchery added a touchdown on a play that began just inside the 20 to finish off the game, but the last two plays inside the red zone don't reflect just how much they struggled to execute there for most of the day.

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