Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chalk Talk: Mike Mitchell was out of the picture

Steelers' radio broadcaster Tunch Ilkin does a fantastic job in the booth every week, on his radio talk show, and also in his weekly Chalk Talk video-breakdowns of key plays every week on

Mike Mitchell is on far left of screen, moving toward
Travis Benjamin, who is being trailed by Cortez Allen and
Troy Polamalu in the big circle in the center of the screen,
while Jordan Cameron, in the small circle near the
40-yard marker, make his way to the far sideline.
Following Sunday's game against the Browns, Tunch took a look at the key 45-yard pass play to Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron immediately following Pittsburgh's botched field goal attempt early in the second quarter.

The Browns set up the Steelers for this misdirection play by their previous commitment to the run (including prior games); their earlier play calls in this game; the three tight-end formation; effective play-action; the movement off the line of scrimmage; and the absolutely perfect execution by Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron, Travis Benjamin and everyone else in a Cleveland uniform. Flawless execution on a well-schemed play.

On the Steelers' side of the ball, eh, confusion reigned, and the execution was, shall we say, less than perfect.  In his excellent review of the video, Tunch points out the position of several Steelers and says, "I am not sure who was supposed to be covering him (Jordan Cameron)."

That's because it looks like there were 10 defenders on the field. Why? Safety Mike Mitchell was so far downfield and moving in the wrong direction to boot that he was literally out of the screen on the video. You'll see at about at the 2:33 mark of the video, Mitchell's shadow shows up on the far left of the screen, though, so we know he was actually on the field.

Mitchell just wasn't anywhere near where the ball ended up -- he was moving to the complete opposite side of the field away from Cameron -- along with fellow safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Cortez Allen. With those two already covering Benjamin, why was Mitchell also going there? And why did leave his side of the field completely wide open? What was he thinking?

Not good judgment or instincts, apparently, on the part of Mitchell.
Lots of wide-open pasture for Jordan Cameron.
Mike Mitchell, meanwhile, is to the far left of the screen , moving in the opposite direction

Again, to review: It was first and 10 at the Steelers' 47-yard line. Cleveland sets up in a three tight end formation, giving the appearance of a running play, with wide receiver Travis Benjamin split wide right. Jordan Cameron is the near tight end off the left tackle. As the ball is snapped, the line flows right, but Benjamin streaks downfield on a slant post while Cameron meanders sneakily on a cross in the opposite direction across the back of the line behind the linebackers. Cameron pivots and makes his way downfield along the right sideline. He gets wide open. Why?

Because, if you look at Tunch's video, in the pre-snap formation, Mike Mitchell had lined up 20 yards downfield on Benjamin's side, where Cameron ended up. As the soon as the ball was snapped, Mitchell immediately started dropping back even further and moving to his right. In other words, he followed Benjamin, who was streaking across the field toward the far corner, providing unneeded backup to both Cortez Allen and Troy Polamalu, who were also in trail.

Despite all the attention, by the way, Benjamin was still wide open, and Hoyer could have hit him just as easily as Jordan. That's because neither Cortez Allen nor Troy Polamalu could keep up with the speedy Benjamin, and Mitchell was nowhere near him, either.

By the time Hoyer released the ball, Mitchell was so far downfield, about 40 yards, he was completely out of the picture. His shadow was still there, on the far left side of the screen, so you could see that he was moving in the direction of Benjamin -- and completely in the opposite direction of Cameron.

And that's how Jordan Cameron got so wide open. A breakdown in the Steelers' secondary, and to our untrained eye, it looks like Mike Mitchell should have stayed on his side of the field and at least tried to close some ground to cover the wide-open Jordan Cameron.  Had he been over there, Mitchell might have at least stopped some of the yards after catch. That 45-yard completion completely turned the momentum of the game, and it was all downhill from there.

You can watch Tunch's entire "Chalk Talk" video of the play at this link. It's instructive, revealing and ultimately dismaying. As Tunch said, "After that, it was Katie bar the door."

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