Steelers – Bengals Round 1: Analyzing Run Defense, Comparing Burfict and Maualuga

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On Rainey’s touchdown, Peko loses ground and allows Maualuga to be blocked. Burfict takes on Miller in the hole but can not shed the block.

On Chris Rainey’s touchdown run, it was apparent. Peko has been blown out of the hole and Burfict comes up in the gap to take on Miller. He can not shed the block and Rainey explodes through the hole for a touchdown.

Burfict’s recognition and closing speed make this run stuff possible, despite Peko losing the battle at the line.

But Burfict’s instincts do make up for strength, which can be improved as his career develops. On this play Peko is pushed out of the gap and Maualuga has to scrape horizontally and fails to attack the hole. Burfict sees Dwyer commit to the hole with Atkins’ penetration, so he shoots to Maualuga’s gap and makes the play along with Johnson, who shucks left tackle Max Starks aside for the assist.

Clements’ struggles with angles against the run illustrate the Bengals’ need at safety. He excels in coverage deep, but he plays the run like a cornerback.

The last play we are going to look at shows the downside of Nate Clements at safety. He is great in coverage as a former cornerback and is not even the worst tackler. His downfall is a lack of experience in the angles in the running game and reading the field from up high. Crocker has been rotated in at safety for more snaps every week due to plays like this.

Like the Rainey touchdown, the Steelers run a trap play with Miller pulling inside to block through the gap. This is the play with Geathers at nose tackle, an odd play considering it was 3rd-and-short. He is pushed out of the gap and center Doug Legursky easily makes it to the second level to block Maualuga.

Inexplicably, Clements runs across the field and away from the play when he should have just taken a downhill angle into the gap. Perhaps it was Miller pulling that threw him off, but the conversion could not have been easier for the Steelers.

The Bengals are by no means bereft of talent, however, and nose tackle Pat Sims will be slated to return from the PUP list very soon. He is not an easy man to move and his return should pay instant dividends in run defense.

And if Burfict is racking up 15 tackles in a game now, just imagine what will happen when Sims arrives to keep him clean.

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