Uncharacteristic on third down

A look at Dolphins 30, Steelers 15 via the magic of the DVR:

**

THIRD-AND-WRONG:** The Steelers had converted 49.2 percent of their third downs through their first five games but were unable to maintain the pace against the Dolphins.

In converting just three of their 11 third-down attempts (27 percent), the Steelers experienced a myriad of problems.

Pressure was prominent among those:

-Third-and-6, Steelers' 38-yard line, first quarter:  Defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Shu exploded off the ball and collapsed the pocket. Suh beat right guard David DeCastro and Wake got around right offensive tackle Chris Hubbard, who wound up being called for holding on the play. The Dolphins declined the penalty after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's desperation flip at tight end Xavier Grimble fell incomplete.

-Third-and-10, Steelers' 36, first quarter: Roethlisberger never had a chance thanks to pressure from the left side of the defensive formation by Wake (working against Hubbard), up the middle from Suh (who stunted around defensive lineman Jason Jones and then ran past left guard Ramon Foster), and from the right by defensive end Andre Branch (who walked left offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva back to Roethlisberger). Branch got the sack but the Steelers got a reprieve thanks to a couple of defensive penalties against the Dolphins.

-Third-and-10, Dolphins' 29, first quarter: More three-pronged pressure from Wake on the left (working against tight end Jesse James), Suh up the middle (working against DeCastro) and Branch from the right (working against Villanueva). Tight, physical coverage by the secondary took away early options and the pass rush did the rest. Wake and Branch split the sack.

Execution was another issue:

-Third-and-1, Steelers' 46, second quarter: Quarterback Landry Jones dropped back from under center and initially looked left, where Grimble appeared to be coming open on a shallow cross at the Miami 49. As Jones cocked his arm to throw, wide receiver Antonio Brown looked to be coming open on a shallow cross behind Grimble. Jones apparently didn't like what he saw in either instance and pulled the ball down. Once that happened, pressure from defensive end Mario Williams seemingly compelled Jones to opt for what looked like an attempted throw-away in the vicinity of tight end David Johnson.

-Third-and-12, Steelers' 45, third quarter: Roethlisberger had time but he found a safety he didn't expect to be at the end of his throw (Isa Abdul-Quddus) rather than wide receiver Sammie Coates on what became the Dolphins' second interception.

-Third-and-6, Steelers' 44, fourth quarter: James was uncovered in the right flat but he and the ball ended up in different spots at the end of his route.
-The Dolphins' ability to cover was also a factor:

-Third-and-5, Steelers' 18, third quarter: Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey ran across the middle of the field under a bunch formation that included running back Le' Veon Bell, Grimble and wide receiver Eli Rogers. Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell was able to navigate the traffic, stay with Heyward-Bey, reach out from behind at the last second and knock Roethlisberger's pass away.

-Third-and-10, 50, fourth quarter: Maxwell attained and maintained inside position on Brown on a route down the right sideline and came up with his second consecutive pass defensed and fourth of the game.

**

DHB TD:** Heyward-Bey's 60-yard touchdown run on a wide-receiver sweep highlighted the difference speed can make in turning a little play into a big one. Heyward-Bey ran around Williams, who initially went right and was unblocked on the play (Johnson and Bell had feigned a run to the other side of the field). Heyward-Bey beat a diving attempt at a tackle by safety Michael Thomas, who was unblocked on the play. Heyward-Bey ran through and over safety Reshad Jones, who was unblocked on the play. And Heyward-Bey beat cornerback Tony Lippett to the pylon. Lippett was unblocked on the play.

BLOCKING AND TACKLING: Head coach Mike Tomlin bemoaned the Steelers' inability to tackle as a critical factor in allowing 222 rushing yards.

They also had a hard time getting off blocks.

Yes, strong safety Robert Golden missed a tackle on running back Jay Ajayi's 62-yard touchdown run. But by that point Ajayi had already benefitted from blocks that free safety Mike Mitchell, linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Stephon Tuitt and linebacker Tyler Matakevich either couldn't get off or couldn't get off quickly enough.

Miami also held blocks on linebacker Vince Williams, defensive end L.T. Walton, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebacker Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Ryan Shazier, Golden and cornerback Artie Burns long enough to spring Ajayi around left end in the third quarter. Timmons wasn't blocked but he couldn't get across the formation fast enough to prevent Ajayi from turning up the field. The first time Ajayi was contacted was at the Steelers' 39, when Mitchell hit him out of bounds (unnecessary roughness). That turned and 20-yard run into a 35-yard gain.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising