Steelers Rewind

Matthew Marczi's breakdown of the Steelers' 27-11 win over the Cleveland Browns includes clean pockets, the quarters defense, and poor Ike Taylor.

With the dawning realization that Ben Roethlisberger was taking nearly four sacks a game, Todd Haley opted to work more quick-release passing into the Steelers' offense beginning last week against the Detroit Lions.

The abbreviated passing game allows the offensive line to play more aggressively in pass protection, and helps neutralize the impact of a single player being beaten.

The result that day was just a single sack, allowed by an out-of-position Guy Whimper, who was making his first start at guard in his career. With Ramon Foster back in the lineup in Cleveland, Roethlisberger stayed "clean" for the first time since the Washington Redskins game in Week Eight of last season.

Roethlisberger has also thrown 106 straight passes without an interception since being picked off on his third pass against the Buffalo Bills. It's his longest such stretch of the season.

Unlike last week, when the interior of the line struggled to contain the Lions' defensive tackles, Steelers Fernando Velasco, Foster, and David DeCastro helped keep the pocket clean throughout the day for their quarterback against Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin.

The outside linebackers, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard, struggled to get any pressure against Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert. Roethlisberger couldn't have asked for a cleaner pocket on Antonio Brown's 41-yard touchdown.

The Steelers seem to have found their best available combination of pass blockers along the offensive line, at least for the rest of this season. It also appears as though they've locked into a passing scheme they can actually protect consistently.

SPARE CHANGE

The Steelers never really got a chance to use Will Allen in their quarters package during his first three years with the team, having been relegated to special teams for most of his tenure.

Since being picked up as an injury replacement for DaMon Cromartie-Smith after the Dallas Cowboys dumped Allen earlier this season, he has gone from a spare part to an integral part of the defense.

Playing nearly the entire game a week ago, he forced a fumble and recorded an interception, making nine tackles along the way.

While the Steelers didn't have to play as much in their quarters package against Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, Allen still recovered a fumble after a William Gay strip sack and made three tackles, all in the second half.

Trailing 13-3, the Browns received the ball to begin the third quarter. On a 3rd-and-5 pass to Greg Little, Allen stepped up, following the receiver over the middle to stop him for a gain of four.

The next third down Campbell faced, the Steelers blitzed both Allen and Gay, and running back Chris Ogbonnaya had to choose which to block. Allen charged into Ogbonnaya, knocking him off-balance and putting himself in position to pick up and return the fumble 49 yards to the four-yard line. That was before nearly stripping the ball out of the hands of Davone Bess earlier in the drive after making another stop on a gain of three.

Allen has stepped up and allowed the quarters package to remain a big part of game plans even after the loss of the other quarters safety, Shamarko Thomas, to injury.

FLASH GORDON

The one bleak spot for a defensive performance that held the home team to just 11 points was a record day by Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who had franchise records 14 receptions for 237 yards.

Most of that came against Ike Taylor, who allowed nine of Gordon's receptions on 11 targets for 169 yards and a touchdown, including a 47-yard completion down the right sideline.

Of the two incompletions, one was a terribly-aimed pass following pressure by Jason Worilds. The other was a deep overthrow on a low-percentage pass in snowy conditions.

You can only do so much in certain situations. One of the few quality balls thrown by Weeden was the one-yard fade for a touchdown in the deep left corner of the end zone, for example.

Some of his damage also came in the form of crossing patterns over the middle of the field against soft coverage.

But by and large, Taylor was just beaten, time and again, missing tackles and getting burned on comeback routes, even when the throw was so poor that it pulled the receiver to the ground.

Gordon is no Calvin Johnson, but he did a great impression against Taylor yesterday. Perhaps it's time the Steelers start showing some concern that their top cornerback has given up more yards than any in the league.


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