Drive of the Week: Steelers Early Strike

Drive of the Week, Inside the Game, Jonathan Smyth, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers

Every Monday I sit in a room with analyst Brian Baldinger and watch game footage of Sunday’s best drives in preparation for NFL.com’s Drive of the Week. This past Monday, we looked at the Steelers’ opening possession verse the Patriots. As Brian broke down the formations and the X’s and O’s of each play, I couldn’t help but think, “The Steelers look like they tore a page right out of the Patriots offensive playbook.” Pittsburgh came out in a multiple tight-end set, utilizing quick passes and taking advantage of the Patriots defensive aggressiveness. Ben Roethlisberger sat back in the shotgun and found Heath Miller on four plays, dinking and dunking down the field the way Brady would orchestrate a drive with his tight ends. I almost expected Roethlisberger to remove his helmet and reveal the long, flowing locks we were so used to seeing on Brady before he visited his local Supercuts.

The Steelers offensive domination didn’t end with their first possession. Pittsburgh more than doubled New England’s yardage total (427 to 213) and controlled time of possession for more than two-thirds of the game (39 minutes and 22 seconds). Roethlisberger said after the game that the Steelers “came in with game plan of throwing the ball,” and that’s exactly what they did on their opening drive.

KEY PLAYS OF THE DRIVE

1st and 10 at the Steelers 32 – Pittsburgh came out right away and showed off their three tight-end formation. This was one of the only plays on the drive where the Patriots rushed four and covered every tight end. Roethlisberger saw this and threw a quick strike to Mike Wallace.

3rd and 4 at the Steelers 38 – The Steelers converted on all three third downs on the drive. Here Heath Miller made his first of four receptions on the drive, looking quite nimble on an out-and-in route for an 11-yard gain.

1st and 10 at the Steelers 49 – Roethlisberger did a great job of taking what the Patriots defense gave him. New England rushed five and Roethlisberger quickly hit Miller for a 10-yard gain. The big plays were taken away from Ben so he utilized Heath on this hot read.

1st and 10 at the Patriots 41 – The Steelers went back to the three tight-end look on this play. The Patriots rushed six leaving Miller open. Nineteen yards later the Steelers were in scoring position.

3rd and 11 at the Patriots 23 – Heath Miller had the hot hands on this drive, too hot for the Patriots to cover him apparently. Miller was wide open in the middle of the field after another New England blitz. This dink turned into a 15-yard dunk and a first down.

3rd and Goal at the Patriots 5 – For the touchdown, the Steelers went five-wide and stacked running back Mewelde Moore on top of Mike Wallace on the outside. They ran a pick-and-roll that would have made Stockton and Malone jealous. Roethlisberger threw a quick pass to Moore for a 5-yard touchdown that capped off an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive for the Steelers.

Key Contributors 

Ben Roethlisberger – 7/9, 66 pass yards, TD pass

Heath Miller – 4 receptions, 55 yards

For more on this drive, watch Brian Baldinger’s “Drive of the Week”

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