This play isn’t anything crazy, but it’s a play preformed well. Pittsburgh’s running a Tampa 2 out of a nickel, and Baltimore’s going to be running a pretty traditional zone buster route concept. Michael Crabtree’s going to run a curl route (his route’s in yellow). As you see, this is going to put him in a gap where there’s no coverage. to widen that gap, John Brown’s going to run a go route near the sideline at the top of the screen, to force a safety to move further back. Willie Snead’s going to run a dig route which forces a linebacker to take a few steps forward. As long as an opposing team’s playing zone, this play’s going to work just about every time. Flacco can just look at the coverage, see that it’s zone, and pick up an easy first down.
Baltimore’s running a cover 2 man on this play, which makes sense. It’s an endzone situation so even with the talent of Pittsburgh’s receivers, they won’t have much room to run routes and get open. To counter that, Pittsburgh’s going to use James Conner on this play (his route’s in blue). Instead of running a traditional flat route, Conner fakes as if he’s running to his left, before running a flat route to his right.
If Baltimore was playing zone, Conner’s move would be pointless, but since they’re playing man, Linebacker Kenny Young (circled in blue) follows Conner, only to realize Conner’s route is actually to the bottom of the screen. This puts Young out of position. Now, all Ben Roethlisberger has to do it look up and see if Baltimore’s playing man (and with the way Ravens defensive backs are staying with his receivers he knows they are). This allows Ben Roethlisberger to just toss the ball to Conner, who can win a footrace to the endzone.
Moving on from good plays on offense, let’s talk about some defense. Lamar Jackson’s in for this play, and Baltimore’s going to run a play action quarterback run. It’s a play you don’t see very often, but when you do see it it’s usually in a situation like this, when a team has a quarterback who’s job is to just run the ball, such as Lamar Jackson or Taysom Hill.
Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton is actually going to be the hero on this play. Often times after a play action, you see guys run straight for the quarterback (which would be following the yellow arrows). However Hilton knows that Baltimore typically uses Jackson to run with the ball, so Hilton runs to the outside (following the blue arrow). This leaves Jackson with nowhere to go, and Pittsburgh’s able to come away with a big stop on 3rd down.
Baltimore’s running a cover 1 linebacker blitz on this play. Ben Roethlisberger’s actually going to do a poor job of reading Baltimore’s coverage. They’re not really hiding it either, the Ravens have 5 men on the line. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to blitz, a linebacker could drop back into coverage, however it makes for a very easy read. Roethlisberger could just look at the linebacker as the ball is snapped, and if he doesn’t drop back instantly, Roethlisberger would know Baltimore’s blitzing.
If Roethlisberger made a better read on this play, he would’ve realized that Baltimore’s blitzing, and he would’e known he has to make a quick throw. Antonio Brown’s running a slant over the middle of the field, with his ability to move in open space, he probably picks up the first down if the pass comes to him. Unfortunately Roethlisberger’s not even looking Brown’s way. Clearly the initial play design was to throw the ball somewhere deep towards the top of the screen, but with a blitz, a slow developing play won’t work.
Once Roethlisberger’s under pressure, he realizes the situation and tries to get it to Brown, but he was a half second too late, and the pressure forced a bad throw. The reason I broke down this play was not because I think Roethlisberger is a bad quarterback by any means, it’s to show how quickly you have to make decisions as a quarterback, and even hall of fame players will make mistakes.