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Steelers-Redskins Defensive GT Review

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Old 11-07-2008, 06:43 PM   #1
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Steelers-Redskins Defensive GT Review

I'm writing this shortly after the news broke that the Redskins have inked DeAngelo Hall to a 7 game contract, so I'll try to keep this in perspective.

I felt at the end of the day on Monday that the Redskins had a rough go of it on defense. Carlos Rogers got caught off guard twice, Rocky McIntosh was horrible and got benched, Fred Smoot was terrible, Leigh Torrence was not great, and Landry didn't do a whole lot either. With the back seven looking that poorly, I figured I'd run the numbers and the Steelers would win going away.

Then I did run the numbers, and they say that clearly the Redskins won the struggle on this side of the ball.

It's important to remember that for the first 28 minutes of this game, the Redskins defense was in total control. I mean, they had given up three points, and the Steelers were probably flat out lucky to have those three points. Carlos Rogers had already dropped a clear as day pick six, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times in the first half, looked like he was indecisive all night, and the one time the Steelers beat a Redskins blitz, the officials ignored a blatant pick by Nate Washington on Leigh Torrence. I mean, it's third and 13, don't you at least have to act like you are running a route?

The the Steelers blocked a punt, and all of a sudden, the Redskins pass defense couldn't win on third down regardless of the distance to gain.

The Redskins, save the first Leftwich pass for 50 yards, won on first and second down all night long. Those are the critical downs that determine which team is winning the game. Third down, or the "bailout" down for the Steelers, is often that last ditch effort to reverse the momentum of the drive. When the Redskins got into third and long, they played it close to the vest on offense, not willing to make any mistakes. The Redskins defense however, played it ultra aggressive trying to blitz and pressure their way off the field.

It was a gameplan designed to stop Ben Roethlisberger from extending plays with his legs. And it was brilliant. Roethlisberger was terribly confused throughout the first half, and highly ineffective. But at halftime, he came out and Byron Leftwich went in at Quarterback, and the Steelers made a halftime adjustment to pick up all the blitzes. It totally changed the tide on third downs, and because the Redskins couldn't get the Steelers offense off the field in the second half, it didn't matter what the offense did.

The dichotomy between how it felt like the Redskins defense did, and how it actually performed is simply explained by how we fans watch the game of football. Fans who watch games tend to analyze games drive by drive. The end result of most Steelers' drives favored the offense. Therefore, the "momentum" or feeling we get while watching the game tells us the Steelers were successful. But we get a different picture when we break the game down play by play, using statistics. The Redskins defense was flat out better than the Steelers offense on a play by play basis even when Leftwich was in. However, critical individual mistakes by the Redskins' coaching staff and defensive secondary allowed the Steelers to extend drives on which they were being otherwise outplayed. The stats will bear this phenomenon out.

Greg "house blitz" Blache

Advice for facing the Steelers: If Ben Roethlisberger is the Quarterback, blitz often. Blitz on all downs and distances. If a player (or paying fan) is bored, put him into the game at linebacker, and have him rush the Quarterback. This will work, if you have half-decent cover guys.

If Byron Leftwich is at Quarterback, you still want to put pressure on the Steelers OL with extra rushers but HOLY GOD DO NOT BLITZ SIX GUYS ON 3RD AND 15 OUT OF HABIT. It's not going to work.

The Steelers WRs are excellent at getting open downfield when given time, but not as good at getting open quickly or adjusting their routes to be open off the snap. Additionally, the Steelers do not use the screen enough to seriously keep opposing defensive lines from pinning their ears back and chasing the QB. The Steelers simply do not have a short passing game to speak of.

Greg Blache got flat outcoached by Bruce Arians at halftime, but the Redskins defense is still way more talented than the Steelers offense is, regardless of who is at Quarterback.

Blitzes:

On 34 total passes by the Steelers, Greg Blache blitzed on 24 individual plays (71%). Those are all plays where he sent more than 4 guys after the Quarterback, but this wasn't just him sending 5 guys a lot. He sent 6 or more Redskins at Ben/Byron on 18 individual plays, still more than half of all passes. He sent 7 defenders after the quarterback 7 times. Seven defenders is enough to define a play as a "house blitz", but I also charted two plays where the Redskins sent EIGHT defenders at Ben/Byron (one each), including a double safety blitz both times. You probably want to throw out that 8 man blitz, the first time the Steelers converted a 3rd and 13, and the second time the Redskins jumped offside.

Blitz Chart:
Rocky McIntosh x15 (sack)
London Fletcher x14 (pressure)
Marcus Washington x13 (3 pressures, 1 QB hit)
Chris Horton x6 (sack)
LaRon Landry x2 (pressure, QB hit)
HB Blades x1

Despite the general success, the Redskins' blitzes themselves weren't overly effective. Obviously it made the Steelers' QBs adjust their plays all night and never get comfortable, but it would be nice if someone besides Marcus could actually do something on the rush.

We don't time up blitzes well at all. Landry is great at it, but these two blitzes are going to be a season high for him. Horton's one weakness (outside of deep coverage) is that he's not a great pass rusher, he only got to the QB once on six tries, and that was because of a pass protection screwup. Rocky and Fletcher are usually much better than this.

Pass Defense

Vital Statistics:
Total Adj Yards = 220
Yards per Play = 6.47
Success Rate = 35% (12/34)
Undoubtedly, this defense is a run stopping unit first. You always have to consider that when grading the Skins defense (and the Steelers defense). There is always one more guy in the box than the opponent can block, which means there is one fewer guy in deep coverage than on most NFL defenses.

The yards per play figure looks good for the Steelers, but success rate bails me out entirely on my analysis. The Steelers had six third down conversions through the air, which is as many successful plays (first down throws and otherwise) as they had the entire night on first and second downs combined. The reason that Yards per play is so high is because of two vertical passes (one of which was a pass interference) that totaled 92 yards for the Steelers.

Coverage Chart
(Targeted, Completed against, Successful Completion against, Yards per target)

Carlos Rogers - 13, 5, 4, 6.8 (skewed a bit by a single play)
Fred Smoot - 5, 3, 3, 14.2 (skewed a bit by a single play)
London Fletcher - 2, 0, 0, 0
Marcus Washington - 2, 2, 2, 7.0
Chris Horton - 1, 0, 0, 0
Leigh Torrence - 1, 1, 1, 13.0
Rocky McIntosh - 1, 1, 1, 13.0

Rocky McIntosh has been really awful against both the pass and the run. He was very good in the first 3-4 weeks of the season, but he looks like a totally different player. It's not physical deficiency or injury, it just looks like a lack of game sense. He doesn't really see backs coming out of the backfield, he often does the wrong thing on read plays ("if the back goes out, cover, if he stays in, rush"), and he's really playing running plays sort of timidly and just not making any sort of aggressive plays.

I think the correct course of action is to let HB Blades get a start or two at WLB, just to let Rocky clear his head. You know, let the game slow down, and hopefully he comes back on fire for the stretch run in the playoffs. We need this guy to play like he did in September. Ever since the Philly game, he's been awful. Not only do I feel this way, but I would be shocked if HB Blades doesn't start against Dallas a week from Sunday. I think Rocky's troubles are very obvious on film, and it's become the type of thing that a coordinator like Jason Garrett can exploit.

The scheme on defense has changed a lot since the first two games, and most guys have just gone with the flow, but we appear to have lost Rocky somewhere along the way.

Pass Rush

It's impossible to judge this unit when we blitz 3/4 of all pass plays, Blache is clearly not leaving this pass rush to chance, opting rather to leave the coverage to chance. Usually that's a bad strategy as if a coverage is blown, it can result in a touchdown, where if the pass rush is ineffective, it usually just results in an underneath completion.

I'll just give you the results and you decide. Remember to account for how often we blitzed, or try to at least.

Sacks (5)
Demetric Evans x2
Kedric Golston
Chris Horton
Rocky McIntosh

QB Hits (5)
Anthony Montgomery
Marcus Washington
Andre Carter
Lorenzo Alexander
LaRon Landry

Pressures (16)
Andre Carter x5
Marcus Washington x3
Chris Wilson x2
Kedric Golston
Corneilius Griffin
Anthony Montgomery
Lorenzo Alexander
London Fletcher
LaRon Landry

Pass Deflections (1)
Andre Carter (intercepted)

Run Defense

Vital Statistics:
Total Adj Yards = 42
Yards per Play = 1.4
Success Rate = 34% (10/29)

What Success Rate is showing is that the Steelers beat us in short yardage situations, which is actually very surprising. The Redskins are great in short yardage situations usually, and the Steelers, as mentioned during the broadcast, have been awful. Go figure.

Yards per play reflects the Redskins ability to eliminate 10+ yard runs and to blow up a lot of plays in the backfield. It's probably a bit misleading in the Redskins' favor, but it shows the focus that this unit puts on stopping the run even with the type of talent that would be more predisposed to stopping the pass first. It's been a pretty healthy combination thus far.

Tackle Chart
(Tackles, Success Runs, Yards/tackle)

London Fletcher - 5, 2, 3.0
LaRon Landry - 4, 3, 6.25
Kedric Golston - 3, 0, 3.0
Demetric Evans - 3, 1, 1.3
Corneilius Griffin - 2, 0, 0
Chris Horton - 2, 1, 2.0
Rocky McIntosh - 2, 0, 2.0
Fred Smoot - 2, 1, 4.0
Carlos Rogers - 1, 0, -6.0
Chris Wilson - 1, 0, -4.0
HB Blades - 1, 0, 2.0
Andre Carter - 1, 0, 4.0
Leigh Torrence - 1, 1, 3.0

Corneilius Griffin and Kedric Golston have been so good against the run this year. Demetric Evans is overrated as a run defender, but underrated as a pass rusher. Still, he had a great game against both. Carter is better against the run than his numbers show, and I believe he's our best DE against the run. Erasmus James was pretty good at times in extended playing time, but he also got inexcusably walled off once or twice, so I guess you could say that the early returns on that deal have been mixed. He's a pass rush first type end, so I'll temper my expectations for him with the run. Not playing with Jason Taylor is a huge help with the run stopping game.

Overall Defense

Vital Statistics:
Total Adj Yards = 262
Yards per Play = 4.16
Success Rate = 35% (22/63)
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Old 11-07-2008, 09:33 PM   #2
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Re: Steelers-Redskins Defensive GT Review

excellent analysis once again,great job
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Old 11-07-2008, 11:18 PM   #3
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Re: Steelers-Redskins Defensive GT Review

I can't understand Rocky starting out so strong and now being confused. Especially since Blache has simplified the "D". Williams did'nt start him right away because he was slow learning the defense. I can't understand what's up with this guy. Physically the guy's a beast.
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Old 11-07-2008, 11:18 PM   #4
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Re: Steelers-Redskins Defensive GT Review

Totally agree that the blitzes flumoxed Roethlisberger. Philly threw the kitching sink at him earlier this year, and he was equally ineffective. This should serve as a blueprint for defending Pittsburgh when Big Ben is the QB.
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