“In The Line of Scrimmage” with DirtDawson
Welcome to Week 2 of “In The Line of Scrimmage”. This week, I'd like to focus on the offensive line's pass protection on key plays during the game against the Bengals. Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that the Bengal's defensive line can be considered one of the better units in the league. With stalwarts like Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, and Geno Atkins, the Steelers O-line was in for one of its toughest tests of the season.
1st Quarter (3:53), 2nd and 10
On the third offensive drive by Pittsburgh, the offensive is able to drive down 45 yards prior to this play. On this play, the Bengals send a standard 4-man rush into a shotgun pass play. Ramon Foster and David DeCastro are assigned to Domata Peko and Geno Atkins, respectively. Maurkice Pouncey is left to help double team any immediate threats from the inside. These matchups of interior linemen will continue to do battle throughout the game, and prove a vital indicator to the success of the Steelers' passing offense.
Maurkice Pouncey initially goes to help DeCastro keep Atkins out of the pocket. They are able to successfully force Atkins to the outside, with DeCastro sealing him off before Big Ben can release the ball. Ramon Foster does a great job of keeping Domata Peko at bay, clearly winning this one-on-one battle. With the successful execution of pass blocking along the interior line, Big Ben has plenty of room to step forward to deliver this pass. The resulting play is a 20 yard TD pass to Xavier Grimble.
3rd Quarter (7:12), 1st and 10.
On their third offensive drive of the 3rd quarter, the Steelers decide to go for a long pass play from shotgun on 1st down. Cincinnati sends another 4 man rush, but this time, Peko is matched up with DeCastro, and Atkins against Foster. The beauty of this play is the adjustments the offensive line makes on their blocking assignments. You'll notice right off the snap, DeCastro is 1-on-1 with Peko, while Pouncey is shifting to help block Atkins along the strong side.
As the play develops, Ramon Foster shifts over to help Alejandro Villanueva push Michael Johnson (90) to the outside and away from Big Ben's blind side. Maurkice Pouncey is now on Geno Atkins 1-on-1. Peko is completely out of the play. It's moments like these where you really get to appreciate the versatility of Maurkice Pouncey. His agility, and the speed of his reflexes, allows the rest of the offensive line to make adjustments to reinforce other parts of the pocket. Again, notice the space Roethlisberger has in front of him to step up and throw. The result of this play is a 53 yard reception by Sammy Coates, the longest offensive play of the game.
3rd Quarter (6:23), 1st and Goal
This is from the same offensive drive from the previous play. I want to show this highlight because it demonstrates how the offensive line holds up against adversity. The Steelers begin the play from shotgun with a 5-man WR set. Bengals rush 4. Pouncey is matched up with Peko with Ramon Foster freed to double team on either the interior or exterior rushers. DeCastro has the hefty task of blocking Geno Atkins 1-on-1. Keep an eye on this matchup. It's one of the few plays where Geno Atkins is not double-teamed with Pouncey.
While Peko, Johnson,and Dunlap are all successfully blocked off, it's Geno Atkins who gets the better of DeCastro on this play. He goes with a straight bull rush to collapse the pocket and overpower DeCastro. But the key thing I want to point out about this play, is how DeCastro holds his own despite being beat. He refuses to go down, keeps his feet under him, and slows Geno's rush as much as he can. It's not about getting beat or not, but rather how badly he let himself get beat. He buys just enough time for Roethlisberger to complete a TD pass to Jesse James.
So this concludes Week 2 of “In the Line of Scrimmage”. I hope you enjoy these series of articles. Next week will be another tough test for the Steelers' O-line, as they face the likes of Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles.