The Pittsburgh Steelers were embarrassed by the Washington Redskins in game one of the preseason, so they came out of that game with an attitude. Head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to make a statement to Steelers fans and the nation in last Thursday night’s game against the Eagles in their second preseason game.
I think that desire had the Steelers do something which you don’t normally see in preseason games. Pittsburgh’s coaching staff game planned for the Eagles. They might have scripted those first quarter plays for Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh attacked the two areas which teams are going to consider to be the Eagles weaknesses, linebacker and safety.
It wasn’t an accident that the Steelers were attacking Eagles middle linebacker Casey Matthews and strong side linebacker Jamar Chaney with draws, screens and quick-hitters up the middle. They’re going to force the linebackers to recognize plays, then force them to beat blockers to make tackles on running backs and tight ends in the open field.
There are inexperienced and unproven players starting for the Eagles at the linebacker and safety positions, while the Birds have All-Pro’s on the defensive line and at the cornerback position. It makes sense to attack them in that way. The fact that the linebackers and safeties make most of the front calls and coverages changes will also have teams changing formations and putting men in motion to test them in that area as well.
In addition, don’t think it was lost to the Steelers that Allen is trying to come back from knee surgery. Many times during my NFL career, I sat in meeting rooms and heard coordinators go over injury and experience information of the upcoming opponent. I’ve seen it have a great affect upon a game plan. This is a must during the season, but rarely done in the preseason.
You may say Pittsburgh shouldn’t have been taking this game so seriously, in truth the Steelers did the Eagles a favor by showing them what other teams are going to do when they look closely at the Birds defensive personnel. They’re going to want neutralize the pass rush by getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and not make a habit of throwing the ball at the Birds cornerbacks.
Offenses will try to run inside because getting outside will likely be impossible with the defensive ends lining up wide and getting upfield. Teams will try to split the defensive front with traps. They’ll run draws to neutralize the pass rush intensity. Screens do the the same thing. They’ll take advantage of an over eager pass rush by making a play initially look like a pass then changing once the defensive linemen commit.
The Eagles linebackers are going to see screens and draws all season long. Any offensive coordinator who looks at the Birds defensive personnel is going to attack the linebacker and safeties.
It also wasn’t an accident that numerous times, the Steelers were able to get one of the safeties, Nate Allen, in one-on-one situations with their wide receivers. You’ll see teams get into various formations and send nearly every player in motion in order to find out how they can get the safeties isolated. Once that is deciphered you will then see those offenses strike downfield in pursuit of the big play.
The Eagles can expect to see more of this type of game plan because quarterbacks will stay away from throwing the ball in the vicinity of their three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Asante Samuel, Nmandi Asomugha, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Samuel is known for jumping routes, so it wasn’t an accident that the Steelers baited him on the slant route and threw the ball deep on him when they got the chance to attack him in blitz coverage.
Teams are going to get the ball to their tight ends as well as their third and fourth wide receivers.