This play is another great example of Roethlisberger’s good use of Haley’s offense. On this play, Roethlisberger and Emmanuel Sanders are on the same page, and make a sight adjustment based on coverage.
The Raiders’ cornerback is shading backwards while their safety is moving into the box. At the snap of the ball the safety bails, but the Steelers are still able to pick the low-hanging fruit. Roethlisberger hits Sanders quickly without even running a route, and Sanders is able to eat up the cushion in front of him.
The way this play is ran, Terence Newman would be the cornerback targeted. Based on Newman’s lack of closing speed in zone and off coverage, coupled with his mediocre tackling, the Steelers will probably look to take full advantage of this deficiency every time he gives a receiver a large cushion.
This play is another example of how the Steelers stretch coverage in order to create holes at different levels. The outside receivers and Miller at the in-line tight end position run verticals to stretch the defense. But the real story is underneath, where slot receivers Brown and Jerricho Cotchery run crossing routes.
The linebackers have been stretched vertically to help on coverage on the vertical routes. The crossing routes are run underneath the linebackers, where Richard Seymour has dropped back to play an underneath zone to compensate for the linebackers’ coverage.
When the receivers hit the mesh point at Seymour, he chooses to bump Brown. As soon as he begins to deliver the blow, Roethlisberger immediately hits the uncovered Cotchery.
The Bengals’ linebackers have a tendency to let receivers get lost in coverage, so the Steelers will probably run crossing routes through their territory all day. They need to be very disciplined, stay within their zones and remember that as soon as they vacate their spot it will be immediately filled by a Steeler receiver.
Overall, the Steelers have many concepts that can take advantage of the Bengals’ deficiencies. While I have objected to rushing Dre Kirkpatrick back to the field, if the talk of him being ready to play is true, perhaps there are situations in which he could be useful.
Leon Hall has a nose for the ball and can easily blow up screens with his fundamentally sound play. Chris Crocker, who saw a bigger amount of snaps last week, may also be employed in coverage at the line to combat this sort of thing. Adam Jones has become more physical this season than I have seen him in the past, but he is still better for covering shifty slot receivers by utilizing his quickness.
How the Bengals hold up will be interesting to see, because Mike Zimmmer surely has more than one trick up his sleeve. How he utilizes his backfield is any guess, but he will certainly be preaching to Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, Dan Skuta and Manny Lawson this week maintain their assignments, play heads up and be ready to fly.