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Monday, July 27, 2015

Interesting development

I typically try to keep an eye on Mike Tomlin early on in practice to see which position he is paying attention to the most.

Monday, it was the cornerbacks, who had broken off from the safeties. I worked my way over to their grouping as Tomlin began talking to them about the things they were going to be working on extensively over the next 14 days.

He then began working on Cover-2 techniques with them, using former Tampa Bay players Will Allen, a veteran safety who was given the day off, and coaching intern Dexter Jackson, a Super Bowl MVP with the Bucs, as his examples.

It was something I had never before seen out of Tomlin. He'll often keep an eye on a certain position, but he never jumps in and coaches an entire session as he did today.

"We're going to build this but we ain't going to build it all today," Tomlin told the corners as defensive coordinator Keith Butler stood by watching.

What did they work on?

Locking their arms when they re-route receivers, shuffling at the line of scrimmage without giving ground to divert the receivers. Turning and dropping before passing the receiver off and then staying low so they can come up and tackle a receiver who catches the ball in front of them in the flat.

Nobody is saying for certain - though Allen came close - but it appears the Steelers will at least incorporate more of the Cover-2 into their defensive scheme.

First, we've had Butler talking about how he'd like the defensive linemen to get more QB pressure - a hallmark of the Cover-2. And with athletic linebackers such as Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier in place, the Steelers have more guys capable of playing that style.

And now Tomlin's work today.

With both the loss of former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and the retirement of safety Troy Polamalu, it might be as good a time as any for a switch.

@ The heat index reached 112 today and claimed rookie tight end Cam Clear as a victim. He left early.

Safety Ross Ventrone also suffered a lower leg injury when he and rookie receiver Eli Rogers collided over the middle going  for a ball.

@ Cortez Allen had a nice interception of Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone in the opening goal-line drill. Later in the drill, rookie corner Doran Grant picked off Landry Jones on a quick out.

@ It was a tough day for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He was twice put to the ground along the sideline while making a catch but held on both times.

Somebody in the crowd hollered, "Hey, 88, you sure know how to make a roster."

@ Tough call on the catch-of-the-day.

C.J. Goodwin went up over Kevin Fogg along the sideline to haul in a Tajh Boyd throw in a nice show of body control.

And Antonio Brown did his best impersonation of himself, hauling in a pass from Roethlisberger one-handed along the sideline.

Then there was Martavis Bryant beating Antwon Blake and Isaiah Lewis deep to catch a bomb from Roethlisberger.

Heyward-Bey also caught a long pass down the sideline from Jones.

@ Linebacker Howard Jones was chided by his teammates for stepping in front of a pass but knocking it to the ground instead of trying to catch it.

"Oh, you've got to catch that," corner B.W. Webb yelled.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious Dexter Jackson is interning for them right now. I guess it's all water under the bridge. But has anyone asked him about breaking his oral agreement and word with the Steelers, skipping out on the red-eye to AZ instead of to his poor immensely pregnant wife's bedside? All's well that ends well, I guess. Jackson got a few extra dollars and the Steelers got Polamalu and a couple of lousy trophies. Lombardi's, I think they're called.

Anonymous said...

haha nice

also, I read recently dexter jackson is in financial trouble- dont wanna laugh about someone having that, but it adds to the irony of the above. i do wonder if he's being paid anything to intern cause seems like he could certainly use it right now!

all in all, he's definitely a good mentor to have for our dbs!

Marc said...

so, are we finally seeing the switch to a 4 man front?

Dale Lolley said...

No. You can play the cover-2 out of a 3-4. They have already done it in the past. But they feel they have two pass rushing studs at DE. They're going to let them get after it and stop the run on the way to the passer.
It's going to be a different style of 3-4 than we're used to seeing. And it looks like they're going to play a decent amount of Cover-2 behind it.

Marc said...

I don't see using the cover-2 out of the 3-4 as being very effective. certainly didn't appear to be last year. good teams with smart QB's will identify the mismatch and pick it apart, imo. if you're gonna run the cover-2, best off to switch to the 4 man front as well.

Ryan said...

It will be a "cat-and-mouse" game with the C2 vs C3. Sometimes Butler will look to get an extra guy in the box and force things to the perimeter with the C3. Other times, he will try to seal off the outside and force the action to the middle with C2. It's good for a D-coordinator to have both coverages in his toolbox.

Anonymous said...

With so many young CB's a simpler Cover 2 scheme might be our best option, even if it is more predictable. Better to have a simple scheme your guys can execute than a complex one that leaves wr's running free in busted coverages as your young CB's struggle to figure out what is going on.

Anonymous said...

Well teams forced their preferred matchups last year. And they preferred to go against their base 34 in cover 3. And they did that by using a ton of 2 inline TE sets. Their base defense in their base 34 sucked. And their run defense in base wasn't much better than their nickel. Guessing they saw more 2TE than any team in the league last year. For good reason.

They weren't defending that with C2.

Glad to see it. I thought they used more C2 after Tomlin was hired. Thought that was a good marriage of concepts between T2 Tomlin and 34/C3 LeBeau. But 2013 was a weird year because of all the key injuries. And last year Polamalu seemed limited in range, so it was a lot of single high and C3.

Their Base 34 was terrible against outside zone. Almost always was against 2TE. And the D almost always 2 gapped against it. 2 inline TEs = 8 gaps. LeBeau felt the need for 8 bodies in the box to account for those 8 gaps, even if he had 3 DL trying to 2 gap. It just didn't work. Not sure why he stuck to it til the bitter end. It's always been terrible against OZB. You need penetration to cut the field in half and bottle up the RBs options, take away cutback lanes and corral him. You can't worry so much about over-accounting for gaps, while exposing your coverage. Because offenses got the best of both worlds. They could run stretch and off-tackle counters against them. And their base D in C3 was a terrible matchup against 2TE/2WR.

They can do that by gapping their front 7. And they can play C2 behind it. That's how teams played the Steelers offense not long ago when the OL sucked. Play the run on the way to the QB by one-gapping. Everyone plays downhill. But the ILBs have to be careful about play-action. So, maybe you fix one thing, but create a different problem as a result. Dunno. Have to see it play out. If the initial penetration is good, the play-action is wrecked anyways. Like we saw with Roethlisberger/Arians.

They might have the right idea for going about fixing an apparent problem. But the players still have to learn it and then execute it. It's all up to them, I guess. As we've seen first hand. Past several years the O has tried to get outside zone up and running in the offseason/preseason, only to gut most of it early in the seasons because they were terrible at executing it. And last year they seemed to want to use nickel more, even against typical run sets. Only to abandon that before the season started. I really think Shazier will be the key to whether this succeeds or fails. But I think they can work this one out. We'll see.

adamg said...

Bell's suspension reduced from 3 games to 2.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the posts Dale...special request for you if you can...Kevin Fogg is a hometown guy...would love to know how he is doing overall. I keep seeing his name in camp write ups. Really want to see him make the team. I assume it will come down to Special teams for him. Thanks!

Dale Lolley said...

Fogg has certainly had his moments. He's got a chance. But you're right, it will come down to special teams. The numbers are tough for him as well. Gay, Allen and Blake make three. And you know the two draft picks likely have spots as well. That means he has to beat out a guy such as Robert Golden or Ross Ventrone on teams.

I don't know the extent of Ventrone's injury yet, but that won't be easy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dale. I know it is an uphill battle for him, but I gotta root for him. I watched him play HS ball here and is nice to see his name pop up in reports from time to time. Thanks!

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