18 Plays Write-up Steelers

18 Plays (sort of) from the Colts/Steelers game

We actually recorded this podcast, but the audio recording didn’t come out right. This will have to do…

Quarter 1

1. 3-2-IND 42 (11:41) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 10-S.Holmes to IND 19 for 23 yards.

The Steelers were already in four down territory, so throwing deep on
third down was a smart play. Holmes made a nice move, and Jennings
didn’t really have a chance.

DZ: This
was about the only thing Jennings did wrong all day. Holmes made a
little side step and Jennings bit hard. He played so well the rest of
the game that we’ll forgive him.

2. 1-10-IND 35 (7:52) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 87-R.Wayne for 65 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Demond: Great blitz pick up by Addai. Manning delivered a nice ball, and Taylor couldn’t deflect it enough to alter its trajectory.

At first glance, this pass seemed short, but the replay shows it would
have hit Wayne in the hands in stride. Taylor made an amazing play to
even touch the ball, but it was so accurate that the tip didn’t alter
the ball flight much. Wayne showed great concentration to haul it in.

3. 1-10-IND 49 (3:35) 18-P.Manning sacked at IND 38 for -11 yards (91-Aa.Smith)

Great coverage downfield. Manning is clearly slower this season in his
lateral movement. Smith came right at him which made it hard for him to
get wide enough to throw the pass away.

Pollack and Diem had Smith double teamed. Pollack inexplicably leaves
Smith to help Saturday (who didn’t need the help). Diem couldn’t handle
Smith without the help. This was another play where you really see the
high level of play from the Pittsburgh secondary who was great all day.
Manning initially had time, but there was no one open.

Quarter 2

4. 3-9-PIT 48 (15:00) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short left to
21-M.Moore to IND 42 for 10 yards (98-R.Mathis, 31-K.Ratliff).

Demond: Good
pressure by Freeney forces Roethlisberger to check down. Bullitt takes
a poor angle on Moore, but Bethea was in position to make a play. Two
yards before the first down line, he is blocked in the back illegally,
and Moore gets the first.

DZ: There
is no excuse for the official to miss this call. Holmes clearly wipes
out Bethea from behind, or the Steelers never convert. Freeney was a
force all day, forcing check downs like this. When Moore catches the
ball, there are two Colts between him and the first down marker, 7
yards away. Bullitt has help to the outside, but forces Moore inside,
where Bethea still likely stops him if not for an egregious penalty
that wasn’t called. This play was devastating live, and seemed like
sloppy tackling by the Colts. On replay, it’s more infuriating because
they mostly did everything right. Bad luck.

5. 1-10-IND
42 (14:14) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 86-H.Ward to IND 1 for
41 yards (21-B.Sanders; 41-A.Bethea). flea-flicker play, #21 Moore
tosses ball back to #7 Roethlisberger

A nice play by Roethlisberger to catch the poor pitch. Sessions just
misses the sack, and Sanders comes sprinting over to make the play on
the deep ball. I watched it several times and still can’t figure out
how he doesn’t make that play.

Sanders bit on the fake, but closed quickly and just overran the play.
I don’t understand it either. Every time I watch it, I expect him to
make the pick. These two plays back to back were demoralizing.
Pittsburgh pounded it in for a 14-7 lead, and it felt like a loss was

6. 3-5-IND 42 (6:33) (Shotgun)
7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to 89-M.Spaeth to IND 29 for 13
yards (41-A.Bethea, 58-G.Brackett).

Demond: This was just a good throw by Roethlisberger. Right between Brackett and Bethea.

And just over Brock who had dropped into coverage. The line rushed
three, and the QB made a tight throw. Nice play by them, but was
indicative of the third and medium plays that defined this game for
good and for bad. Pittsburgh converted this into a field goal and a
17-7 lead.

7. 4-8-PIT 37 (1:52) (Punt formation) 17-H.Smith punts 29 yards to PIT 8, Center-48-J.Snow, downed by IND-85-P.Garcon.

We disagreed about this play at the time. I guess you were right. My
thinking was for this to work the following things had to happen: 1.
you needed a good punt/special teams play and 2. you needed a defense
that had already allowed 17 points in less than a half to get a stop. I
just figured the odds of both of those were nil.

I usually always favor going for it, but not this time. Because the
Colts would get the ball to start the second half, it didn’t make sense
to risk giving Pittsburgh one more scoring chance (which they would
have if the conversion failed). Something about the way this game was
going screamed for a conservative call. The Colts were struggling to
complete throws on offense at the time as well. Even if the Colts never
got the ball back that half, the Steelers would likely not score either
leaving open the opportunity for a second half comeback.

 3-2-PIT 16 (1:30) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep left intended for
10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 31-K.Ratliff at PIT 32. 31-K.Ratliff to PIT
30 for 2 yards (49-S.McHugh).

Demond: Roethlisberger
feels heat from Freeney that isn’t really there, and makes a really
poor throw. Sometimes the hyperactivity of Freeney and Mathis can make
the QB feel like there’s more pressure than there really is.

DZ: They
are so fast that if the QB doesn’t trust his protection, it can be
scary. Freeney was a beast this game, forcing not only two sacks, but
this pick, a holding call, and several check down throws. Brackett does
a nice job in the ‘spy’ roll checking Moore out of the backfield,
leaving only one (poor option). Ratliff makes the play here, but really
made plays all day long. He was very strong tackling, and played a
textbook cover-2 corner all day. Roethlisberger simply CAN’T make this

9. 3-2-PIT 2 (:09) 18-P.Manning pass short middle to 44-D.Clark for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Demond: This
was the play that saved the season. I loved the run on 2nd down to set
this up. Clark lines up right and sits right down in the space vacated
by Farrior.

This was a veteran route by Clark. If he runs it too deep, the LBs
break up the pass. Instead he stays shallow, right on the goal line and
catches a tough ball that is hot and little bit behind him. Nice play
by everyone, and even trailing 17-14, it felt like Indy was in the game
to stay.

Quarter 3

10. 3-1-IND 35 (13:44) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 11-A.Gonzalez to IND 47 for 12 yards (24-I.Taylor).

Demond: Receivers stacked right and left. Wayne stays shallow; AG fakes deep, comes back…easy completion.

The defensive holding on this play was hilarious. The penalty was
declined, but the DB grabbed Wayne by the shoulder pads and mugged him.
Tomlin was complaining about it after the fact, but it was mugging.

3-3-PIT 18 (8:23) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep right to
88-M.Harrison. IND-88-M.Harrison was injured during the play. Coverage
by #22 Gay, #23 Carter

Marvin didn’t have much separation from the CB Gay. Peyton put it right
on the money, but Gay got a finger tip on the ball. Most commentators
called it ‘alligator arms’, but the pass was actually slightly
deflected. Honestly, Manning threw a lot of incomplete passes that day.
Four were to Marvin…four to Wayne (including a ‘drop’ on the first
drive)…AG dropped a pass. Clark had a ball hit off his hands. Marvin
is getting more heat than the others, but they all missed plays too.

I saw alligator arms. Honestly, the creepy thing about this play was
the weird look Freeney gave Marvin when he finally came back to the
bench (Demond called it almost an ‘eye roll’). It certainly wasn’t a
look of concern for a potentially injured teammate. It was a “whatever,
dude” kind of glance. This is was really weird. The dropped pass
resulted in a FG to tie the game instead of a go ahead TD.

12. 3-5-IND 43 (5:25) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short right to 86-H.Ward (21-B.Sanders).

Demond: Great defensive play by Bob to make up for the missed play earlier. Quick reaction time.

This play probably saves 3 points. The completed pass would have been
inside the 35, and set the Steelers up near FG range. The Zombie closed
incredibly fast and swatted away the pass ala the AFC Championship
game. This down and distance (3rd and 5) was the story all night. This
time the Colts made the play and got the ball back with a chance to
take the lead.

13. 3-11-IND 42 (1:47) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep left to 11-A.Gonzalez (23-T.Carter)

Demond: AG
is in the slot; Manning lofts one up, but AG is wide open. He gets
rocked and dropped the pass. If this was Marvin, everyone would be
saying he was a washed up bitch. This was a big moment in the game, and
you have to secure the ball before glancing upfield.

Even though this drive stalled here, it was still fairly successful.
The crowd was very loud, and the Colts had been pinned deep after the
stop of the Steelers by Bob. By getting out to the 42 (thanks to
another tip to Wayne), the Colts managed to back the Steelers up and
momentarily kept momentum out of their hands. AG has dropped about 5
huge third down passes this year. It’s troubling. He did get CRUSHED on
this one though.

Quarter 4

14. 3-1-IND 1 (9:04) 21-M.Moore up the middle to IND 1 for no gain (68-E.Foster).

Foster goes down to the ground to avoid the block, comes back up and
drills the ball carrier. One of the reasons this win was so satisfying
was because it took so many clutch plays by so many guys to pull it
off. This might have been the biggest.

(doing a ‘faith healer’ voice) It was as if he PLUNGED beneath the
WATERS OF BAPTISM and emerged REBORN! as an honest to God NFL caliber
defensive tackle. Absolutely amazing play. He had made the stop on
second down as well. Even though Pitt drilled the FG to take the lead,
after this play, we all felt like this was the Colts’ day.

3-4-PIT 34 (4:51) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass short middle
intended for 10-S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by 23-T.Jennings at PIT 38.
23-T.Jennings to PIT 32 for 6 yards (7-B.Roethlisberger).

Even though the blitz by Sanders was picked up, it helped (along with
pressure from Freeney) force and early throw. Jennings just wanted the
throw more. Early in the season, he would have been flagged for
breathing wrong on Holmes, but this time they let him fight for the
ball. It was as impressive as anything you’ll see from a Colts’ DB.

DZ: Jennings
was solid all day long. He made several key tackles in the run game and
on those crappy short screens the Steelers kept running. He looked like
a legit Colts cover 2 corner in the vein of Harper, David, Jackson, and
Hayden. Once he picked this ball off, you knew the Colts would score.

16. 3-1-PIT 23 (3:43) 38-D.Rhodes right guard to PIT 17 for 6 yards (92-J.Harrison, 93-N.Eason).

Demond:Good vision by Dom to find the hole. He gained all the yards on the winning drive.

Again, the Colts run game is brutally efficient in third and short. CJ
pulls and seals the right edge, Saturday sort of falls and knocks
someone down, and Dom cuts back for the first. As dicey as the run game
has been all year, it’s been great on short yardage (unless it’s a
fourth down at midfield. Yeesh)

17. 1-10-PIT 17 (3:10) 18-P.Manning pass short right to 38-D.Rhodes for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Everyone is covered as Manning looks down the middle. He spots Dom, and
throws a perfect pass just over an out of position Polamalu. Dom grabs
it and walks in.

DZ: This was only Dom’s second TD catch ever. The throw was amazing. All Dom had to do was not drop it.

18. 1-10-IND 32 (:48)
(Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short left to 21-M.Moore.
PENALTY on PIT-78-M.Starks, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at IND 32 – No Play.
AND  1-20-IND 42 (:43) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger sacked at IND 49 for -7 yards (93-D.Freeney).

Colts do a nice job on the drive forcing the Steelers to use a ton of
time to gain very little actual yardage. The Steelers used 12 plays on
this drive (really 14 with penalties which still used time). Freeney
was great all day, and finally got a holding call, and then followed it
up with the loop around sack. This essentially won the game.

Freeney did a great job tackling Roethlisberger on the play given the
fact that they are about the same weight. Freeney was huge all day. I
can’t tell you how glad I am that we didn’t have use the Hail Mary as
one of the 18 Plays. That would have been heart breaking.

General observations:

on the O-line except for Saturday did something stupid, but at the same
time, there is no debate that the line has gotten dramatically better
since the return of Ugoh. I don’t know if he’s the answer for 15 years
at LT, but moving CJ inside has helped so much. As a unit they are
playing much better even though everyone is still making mistakes.
Pollack is the weak link right now by a lot.

was great to see the Colts blitz effectively. On one hand, blitzing in
a cover-2 is an admission of defeat. It means you either can’t get
pressure with the front four, or you can’t cover long enough to let the
line get there. The Colts have decided that as long as they can’t
cover, they might as well blitz and try to force a bad decision. It
worked well on Sunday. They tried to balance it out with some three man
rushes. That didn’t work as well.

said last week that we couldn’t imagine a scenario where the Colts won
this game. But it happened. If you had told us that all that had to
happen was:

Indy would out rush
Pittsburgh, holding them under 60 yards. Eric Foster would make a huge
goal-line stand. Jennings and Ratliff would both pick off huge passes.
The O-line would only give up 2 sacks and keep a clean pocket.

We would have said…exactly. That’s why we won’t win this game. It was a stunning victory.