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Breaking down the tape: Fitzgerald Toussaint

Posted Jan 5, 2016

RB Fitzgerald Toussaint had 12 carries and 24 yards in Week 17 vs. the Browns.

A look back at the Steelers’ 28-12 win in Cleveland via the magic of the DVR:

IF THE SHOE FITZ:
RB Fitz Toussaint made a modest contribution carrying the ball after replacing DeAngelo Williams (ankle/foot) against the Browns. But Toussaint found ways to impact the game beyond his 12 carries and 24 rushing yards.

Second-and-5 from the Cleveland 35-yard line, second quarter: Toussaint recognizes an overload from the left side of the defensive formation on a four-man rush and is there to meet LB Christian Kirksey as Kirksey comes hard around OT Marcus Gilbert, who is otherwise engaged. Toussaint’s ability to force Kirksey wide helps provide the time for QB Ben Roethlisberger to find WR Antonio Brown for an 18-yard gain to the Browns’ 17.

Second-and-10, Cleveland 17, second quarter:
Toussaint reads a five-man pressure and zeroes in on LB Karlos Dansby, who is driving C Cody Wallace into the backfield after walking up to the line of scrimmage and timing the snap count. Toussaint hits Dansby from Dansby’s left and Dansby hits the deck. Roethlisberger hits Brown for a 17-yard touchdown.

Two-point conversion, fourth quarter:
Toussaint flares out of the backfield to Roethlisberger’s left and heads toward LB Paul Kruger, who has crept a couple of steps past the line of scrimmage after the snap. Toussaint achieves separation by blasting into Kruger and then cutting hard to his right. Toussaint is wide open when Roethlisberger spots him in the end zone.

The 12-carry, 24-yard rushing effort upped Toussaint’s career totals to 24 attempts and 54 yards the past two seasons with the Steelers and Ravens (six for 12 on the ground in 2014 in Baltimore while spending time on the active roster and the Ravens’ practice squad).

Toussaint (5-foot-9, 204 pounds) started 32 of 38 career games and rushed for over 2,000 yards (including a 1,000-yard season in 2011) at the University of Michigan. He joined the Ravens in 2014 as an undrafted free agent and played as a reserve in Baltimore’s playoff victory over the Steelers last January.

Toussaint also put a hustle play on tape in the Browns game by tracking down LB Craig Robertson at the end of a 38-yard interception return to the Steelers’ 9.

Second-and-8, Steelers’ 40, third quarter:
After initially chipping LB Nate Orchard on the way to the left flat, Toussaint has to work his way around Dansby upon beginning to pursue Robertson after the change of possession. Robertson navigates his way around or past G Ramon Foster, Gilbert, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, TE Heath Miller and Wallace before Toussaint finally catches him along the far sideline just inside the Steelers’ 10 and makes what might have been a touchdown-saving tackle.

DB OR NOT DB:
Of the season-high seven sacks the Steelers registered, only two were credited to defensive backs (S Will Allen and CB Antwon Blake). But DBs were involved in six of the seven pressures that got home.

The first sack of the game was the exception.

First-and-10, Cleveland 38, first quarter:
LB Lawrence Timmons and LB Ryan Shazier finish off what started out as a four-man pressure (Shazier, LB Arthur Moats, DE Cam Heyward and DE Stephon Tuitt). Timmons initially drops into zone coverage but covers about 15 yards with remarkable speed upon noticing Shazier has flushed QB Austin Davis left. Timmons (front side) and Shazier (back side) meet at the scrambling QB.

Allen, Blake, CB Brandon Boykin or S Mike Mitchell were a part of subsequent pressures that confounded the Browns and ended up with Davis on the ground six more times. Repeatedly, the Steelers found a free lane to the pocket even though they lacked a numerical superiority in terms of pass rushers vs. pass protectors.

LIKE RIDING A BIKE:
S Ross Ventrone was added to the 53-man roster two days before the game but he still ended up on the punt, kickoff and kickoff-return teams.

And Ventrone made in his mark in his first game with the Steelers since Oct. 12 at San Diego.

Fourth-and-6, 50-yard line, fourth quarter:
Ventrone, at right gunner, beats press coverage from CB Justin Gilbert and subsequent pursuit from CB Johnson Bademosi while sprinting up the field. Ventrone slows up momentarily on the numbers at the Cleveland 9 while locating Jordan Berry’s punt, which lands on the right hash marks at the 11. Ventrone meets the ball just in front of the goal line, collects it off the third bounce and then deposits it back onto the field of play at the 1.

What happened next is worth noting. S Shamarko Thomas fell on the ball as if diving on a grenade and Thomas kept it covered until he heard a whistle (failing that Thomas may well have kept the pigskin covered until it hatched).

Apparently, there would be no repeat of what had taken place in the Denver game _ remember Broncos WR Jordan Norwood’s 71-yard return of a punt that had been downed but not covered that was nullified by an illegal-substitution penalty? - this time.