Steelers at Patriots - Match-ups
By CK Stiller
In this article. I�m going to look at how the Steelers match-up with the Pats they�ll face most of the game. I touch some on scheme. I went back and watched the Jets game a lot, along with the meeting in 05 to get an idea of how the Pats will attack the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB
The Patriots will try to contain Ben in the pocket, and they�ll succeed. I�m not expecting heavy pressure. I�m thinking they�re going to give a lot of 4 man rushes. The goal is to collapse the pocket around him, like the Jets were able to. The DE�s and OLB�s of the Pats will be successful. I look for Ben to have some success escaping to his left when they rush Thomas on the outside.
Marvel Smith, LT
Adalius Thomas is a guy who relies almost entirely on getting the edge on a tackle. He relies on his quickness. Thomas plays high and tries to loop around. Smith should have success getting his hands on him in the passing game. His ability to lock on and ride Thomas out of plays will give Ben a chance to work his magic on the outside. In the run game, I expect Thomas to frequently be sealed as he gets himself too far up field. Smith on Seymour is mismatch early for the Steelers. The key is whether or not Seymour wears down as the game goes on. Smith should have no problem collapsing Green. If he doesn�t, we have real problems. I think the speed and strength of both these pass rushers will give Smith trouble. They will move him in the passing game with bull rushes and contain Roethlisberger.
Alan Faneca, LG
Faneca is the best of the Steelers interior in pass pro. He has a habit of lunging in the pass game and leaving himself vulnerable to stunts. I think he�ll he struggle with Seymour�s strength and quickness off the snap. These DE�s know how to use their hands. If he lunges, they�ll be able to beat him cleanly. I think Faneca will have a lot of success if he can get to the second level. He�ll dominate Bruschi or Seau. I don�t think he�ll be able to handle any of these lineman one on one. Faneca isn�t that strong at the point of attack. He�ll be stonewalled frequently.
Sean Mahan, OC
The more I watch Mahan, the more I like him in the run game. Against lesser NT�s, he gets some movement on his own. He hasn�t had an issue giving ground, though Wilfork will attack a gap on some plays and be too quick for him. Mahan should be able to ride him out of some run plays when he does this. I think Faneca and him will have some success moving Wilfork on doubles, though not consistently. If the Pats give four man fronts, he�ll have success at the second level. That�s where the Steelers interior is at its best across the board. I worry more about his ability in the pass game. Wilfork gets up field very quick for a man of his size, and it�s hard to stop. Mahan has struggled with NT�s in pass pro all year. He�s not doing a good enough job getting his head up after snapping the ball. All of these DL have good hand technique. Mahan has fallen victim to swim moves on a regular basis. He could get Ben killed.
Kendall Simmons, RG
Mahan is bad enough at this point. Simmons makes me want to cry. He�s an embarrassment. His technique in pass pro is terrible, and pass rushers are frequently able to get underneath him on the bull rush. Ty Warren and Wilfork will dominate him all game. There will rarely be a pocket to step up into because of Simmons. He will flush Roethlisberger into the hands of waiting OLB�s and outside rushing DE�s multiple times in this game. The Pats will do everything they can to get a strong interior pass rusher (Warren) isolated on him by bringing a LB from the right.
Willie Colon, RT
Colon on Warren is going to be interesting. Colon relies on leverage in the run game. His (lack of) height works to his advantage here. He had some success on Pryce and Ellis. He�s just lower then they are from the snap. Warren isn�t as quick as Ellis is, and that should help Colon in pass pro. He struggled to lock out on Ellis and leaned too much. This allowed Ellis to throw him aside on a few occasions. I worry about this with Warren. I think Colon will handle Vrabel well. Colon has played a number of pass rushers on his level and dealt with it.
Willie Parker, RB
Parker�s vision remains his biggest issue. He�s not a shifty runner, and relies on getting the edge or running north to south. The running lanes will be clogged inside. I don�t think Parker will have much success. I think the OLB�s will do a nice job containing him and keeping him from bouncing out. The best bet the Steelers have to run is off tackle between the DE (Green/Seymour) and Thomas. The ability of Smith and Faneca to handle those two is key. I expect they will have find what success they have late in the game. I would love to see Parker in space on these ILB�s. Wheel routes and flares would be nice to see. Parker is a weapon. He�s at his best in space. Arians needs to keep this in mind. Steelers fans know this and complain about it frequently. Who knows if we�ll see it.
Teams double Ward with a DB and a LB a lot. Samuels will likely receive a lot less safety help. They play the Steelers in a lot of zone. Samuel will play him tight. Ward needs to work inside on Samuel. The Patriots don�t have rangy enough LB�s. Ward should have success working inside between the LB and safeties. His ability to make tight catches is going to be key in this game. The Patriots will not shut him down. Ward is the sort of receiver they hate. He�s a tough guy who works the middle and feasts on zones. Lets take a look at his games against the Pats:
05, Week 3 - 4 rec, 110 yds, 2 TD�s
04, AFCCG - 5 rec, 109 yds, 1 TD
04, Week 8 - 6 rec, 58 yds, 0 TD
02, Week 1 - 8 rec, 90 yds, 1 TD
01, AFCCG - 6 rec, 64 yds, 0 TD
I have no doubt Holmes can outrun Hobbs in a footrace. Hobbs will play soft on Holmes, and a lot of zone. I�m curious to see how often they roll a safety over Holmes. The Jets played a good deal of cover three, with a CB in the underneath zone and a safety over top. The Pats trust Hobbs more then the Jets do their scrubs. They left him out on an island with Wayne often. Holmes did beat the Jets deep. Hobbs biggest issue is going to be playing the ball in the air. Holmes has had a lot of close calls on deep passes. Ben trusts him to go up for the ball, sometimes in deep coverages. He continues to get his hands on them, but drops them. He had one horrible drop while being triple covered by the Jets (placed right into his hands in stride). The ball was placed right into his hands. I�ve been waiting for Holmes to make these grabs for two years now. It�s my biggest issue with him as a receiver. If he wants to beat Hobbs, he�s going to have to play the ball in the air. He�ll be playing the deep zone (and I doubt Holmes gets around him) or have help all game.
Nate Washington, WR
Washington needs to make plays. Time is sort of running out on the season. Last week, he added little but another drop to his name. Washington is capable of stretching defenses vertically. From the slot or outside he�s a threat. He could have some success working the middle of the field in front of the safeties. I�m starting to question if Roethlisberger trusts him anymore. Washington was open on a short drag in the end zone, but he chose to run instead.
Cedric Wilson, WR
Wilson is a solid back-up. He doesn�t have great speed, but he�s fairly quick and runs good routes. In general, doesn�t have great awareness. It shows on sideline routes (routinely goes out of bounds) and his lack of productivity when the plays begin to break down.
Heath Miller, TE
A good, if not great blocker. I think he can have success against Thomas in the ground game. Struggles more in pass pro. He should dominate any of these LB�s or safeties. There is no excuse for not involving him in this game. If the Pats do as expected and roll their coverage outside to the receivers, Miller needs to have success working the soft zones between the LB�s and in front of these safeties. He�s fairly athletic, good after the catch, and has great hands.
Matt Spaeth, TE
Again, I think he�ll have some success on Thomas. His biggest issue is consistency. His technique gets sloppy. I would like to think they could get him involved in the passing game for once, but I sort of doubt it at this point. Like Miller, he�s shown to have good hands (has one drop on the year). He�s athletic and big. It would be nice to see him get a chance to make some plays as a receiver.
Aaron Smith, DE
Aaron Smith needs to have a great game. Neal is the best member of this OL. Smith doesn�t push the pocket like Keisel. I do expect Neal to get the better of him in pass pro. I don�t think there is a guard or tackle in the league who can move a healthy Smith. Smith hasn�t looked 100% as of late, but he�s gotten the job done. My biggest concern is when he comes off the field. Eason will be eaten alive by Kaczur and Neal.
Casey Hampton, NT
No one clogs the middle better than Hampton. Hampton will not be moved by Koppen alone. Hampton usually does a very nice job of not getting himself caught up field and fighting off guards on the reaches and down blocks. Neal and Mankins are great guards. They have failed to move Hampton in the past, and there is no reason why that would change now. I think Hampton lacks the ability to beat Koppen. He�ll still often get help from a guard.
Brett Keisel, DE
Keisel will push the pocket and get in Brady�s face. His ability to move Mankins is what I question. Keisel is very good at batting down balls at the line. Brady will need to worry about him on any quick drop. Keisel is a key aspect of the Steelers pass rush. He is one of the most significant players on the field.
Both wave DE�s, Eason and Kirschke, offer more as pass rushers than I believe Smith does. They are significantly worse against the run. Both are quicker, and they also happen to be fresher. Both will see significant playing time.
Clark Haggans, OLB
I believe Haggans will have success on Kaczur. Haggans has a good first step, and mixes up his rushes. But his use of his hands is key. Haggans has long arms, and very good technique. That is an issue with Kaczur. He has good hand movement, and he�ll beat him multiple times on Sunday. Haggans does a great job setting the edge in the run game.
James Harrison, OLB
Harrison is a bulldog with a non-stop motor. He is great at staying low (his height helps a bit) and getting underneath defenders. He understands leverage. This is what allows him to succeed as an edge rusher. Again, these are things Light struggles with. Harrison will get the edge on him frequently in this game. He�ll have success when they line him up on the right on Kaczur, as well. Harrison does have some minor issues getting caught too far up field in the ground game. He can be swallowed up by larger tackles with longer reaches. Fortunately, none of that applies with Light.
James Farrior, ILB
Farrior has had issues getting deep enough on his drops, and it�s allowed TE�s to have some success working the middle of the Steelers defense. The Pats love to run Watson up the seam. He has more range than most 3-4 ILB�s still. His ability to drop in the deep middle is going to be significant to stopping this offense. This role may end up going to another player. Farrior is sound in the run game. He�s physical and takes on blockers.
I would apply just about everything I said about Farrior to Foote. Both are strong blitzers. The Patriots will be well drilled in the Steelers middle blitzes and stunts, so I�m not expecting a lot of success. Their backs and TE�s are also excellent in blitz pick-up. The number of snaps Foote plays will be interesting. Extra DB�s usually means he comes off the field.
Ike Taylor, CB
Taylor can run with Moss. Taylor is big, fast, and physical. What he lacks is the ability to play the ball. Steelers DB�s attempt to dislodge the ball, or throw a hit to knock it up. Moss turns for the ball early, but I still don�t think Taylor will be able to jump with him. The jump ball is always a concern. I think Taylor�s ability to play Moss tight will give him fits for a lot of the game, though. He�ll have help from a safety at all times.
Bryant McFadden, CB
I would love to see McFadden matched up on Stallworth. The Pats love to get Stallworth the ball in space. McFadden is a superb tackler. One of the best on the team. McFadden plays soft and hasn�t quite figured out how to play with a cushion. He�s too cautious, and I think the Pats will have some success working underneath him (just like the Steelers will Hobbs).
Deshea Townsend, CB
Townsend can run with Welker. Corey Ivy played him tight, and often jammed him coming off the line. Townsend is much faster than Ivy. Townsend, like McFadden, will give too soft a cushion when outside when alone. He�ll concede inside and underneath routes to Stallworth out of fear of getting beat deep. I worry a lot about the Pat hitches and bubble screens. The Steelers have been vulnerable to these since last year, and the Pats love to run them with Stallworth and Welker.
Troy Polamalu, SS
Polamalu needs to have a big game. How the Steelers use him is going to be interesting. I expect the Steelers will play a lot of cover 2, and that he�ll spend a lot of time in the deep zone. Polamalu does a great job of shutting down the deep passing game. He has the best range of any safety in the league. One of the staples of this Pats offense is the skinny post. Most safeties can not get over in time to hit Moss. Polamalu can. Polamalu will throw several nice hits on receivers and break up some passes by doing so. Polamalu needs to come up and make the tackles when they run they throw the short stuff to these receivers outside. This is the weak point of his game. He has the ability to make some jaw dropping tackles. His recklessness (often times puts his head down and dives) leaves him vulnerable not just to missing the man, but also injuries.
Anthony Smith, FS
Smith is a very good FS. I�m glad to have Polamalu back, because his total speed will allow faster receivers to get behind him a step or two on the bombs. Chad Johnson has been able to do this a few times, and though the coverage was tight, better thrown balls from the cornholer would have allowed for completions. Like Polamalu, Smith will come up and punish receivers. He hits harder than #43 and is far angrier. I question the toughness of Stallworth and Moss, and Smith is a classic enforcer in the deep middle. Anything beyond 10 yards will leave them exposed to one of the Steelers safeties.
Tyrone Carter, SS/DB
Carter is a slow little guy. He looked good playing the deep zone in the cover 2 last week against Cinci on the intermediate passes. He struggles badly the more ground he�s asked to cover. He�s useless on a deep bomb. Against the Dolphins they had him over the slot receivers on a few occasions, and he looked terrible trying to run with receivers. He is a very good tackler and likes to hit people. He�s a quality role player. I�m curious to see if the Steelers will stick him back at safety and have Troy up in the box to cover a receiver. I hope they don�t, because I fear his ability to give Taylor real help on the deep ball to Moss.