Scouting for Steelers: Defensive Backs II
- Montel Garner: 41 defensive snaps, 3 ST snaps
- Sean Davis: 40 defensive snaps, 10 ST snaps
- Kevin White: 32 defensive snaps, 10 ST snaps
- Al-Hajj Shabazz: 32 defensive snaps, 7 ST snaps
- Shamarko Thomas: 31 defensive snaps, 11 ST snaps
- Donald Washington: 30 defensive snaps, 7 ST snaps
- Doran Grant: 26 defensive snaps, 5 ST snaps
- Jordan Dangerfield: 15 defensive snaps, 12 ST snaps
- Jacob Hagen: 15 defensive snaps, 7 ST snaps
- Robert Golden: 15 defensive snaps, 2 ST snaps
- Mike Mitchell: 15 defensive snaps
- William Gay: 15 defensive snaps
- Ross Cockrell: 14 defensive snaps
- Ray Vinopal: 12 defensive snaps, 4 ST snaps
- Julian Whigham: 12 defensive snaps, 2 ST snaps
That’s a lot of defensive backs. It’s easy to see who the Steelers are envisioning as starters among the vets. And speaking of veteran players, one question I had, since I barely knew some of these names, is who is a vet and who’s a newbie. The answers are:
- Donald Washington: 4 years
- Doran Grant: 2 years (sort of)
- Jordan Dangerfield: 1 year
- Montel Garner: 1 year
- Jacob Hagen: 1 year
- Al-Hajj Shabazz: 1 year
- Ray Vinopal: 1 year
- Kevin White: 1 year
- Julian Whigham: Rookie
Of course, as we can see by Doran Grant being considered a 2nd year guy, how much experience is encompassed in these designations can vary a good deal.
The Steelers are obviously trying to grow Sean Davis up in a hurry—he wins the total snap count  for the entire roster when you add together the regular and special teams snaps. (Actually, L.J. Fort also had 50.) Only a few guys are even close—Cobi Hamilton with 45 total and Sammie Coates, Montel Garner, and Jordan Zumwalt with 44.
So back to the tape, and let’s see what the second half looks like. Once again I’m just going to look at the pass plays. I’m also going to eliminate the plays negated by a Philadelphia penalty.
- 13:41, 2-6: Chase Daniel pass, short left, L.J. Fort in coverage. Receiver gains a few YAC as Fort isn’t as fast as he is. (7 yards.)
- 13:14, 1-10: Incomplete pass (Daniel just has to throw the ball away as a ton of defenders are in his face.)
- 13:08, 2-10: short right. The closest defender is L.J. Fort, who is five yards back. He and Shamarko Thomas head for the receiver, although Thomas, despite being about 10 yards back, makes it there first. He whiffs on the tackle, however, and Fort does make the tackle, although not before the receiver has gained about 7 yards. A curious thing was that Shabazz was a bit farther back than either, and I noticed as I stopped the film that an Eagles player has Shabazz wrapped up in a way which is still illegal in some states. Shabazz manages to fight him off and comes running in to participate in the tackle. Serious question here—is this holding, and if so why not? (8 yards)
- 10:47, 3-4: short middle. L.J. Fort (his name seems to be coming up a lot) was in Daniel’s face as he got the pass off. Shamarko Thomas took the receiver down immediately for no YAC, but it was a first down nonetheless… (8 yards)
- 9:36, 2-4: incomplete pass. Should have been caught (although he would have been tackled right away, as both Vince Williams and Kevin White were on the spot. Shamarko Thomas almost caught the deflection.)
- 9:31, 3-4: deep left. Kevin White was in coverage, and was right with his man, but the receiver made a great over-the-shoulder catch. (23 yards) (The broadcast said it was Donald Washington, but it wasn’t.)
- 9:02. 1-10: short middle. Daniel is now operating a no huddle. No YAC—White was the first in on the tackle, but Fort and Williams were also there. (5 yards)
- 7:57, 1-5 (goal): short right, incomplete. Pass was knocked away in the end zone by Shabazz.
- 6:11, 1-10: short right (in the backfield) to the RB. No defenders were within a mile. Fort, Steven Johnson, and Montel Garner were there first, after the RB gained 4 yards, plus the five yards in the backfield. (4 yards.)
- 5:09, 3-2: short middle. Kevin White tackles the receiver right away, or tries to. Jacob Hagen comes roaring up the field to assist. (9 yards, no YAC)
- 3:50, 2-13: short right, incomplete. Receiver bobbled the ball while catching, and bobbled it some more while being taken down by a host of guys, Jacob Hagen being the one who got the credit.
- 3:43, 3-13: short right, incomplete. Again the receiver doesn’t secure the ball. Garner was credited with the coverage.
- 14:37, 1-10: short left, no YAC, Shabazz right there. (6 yards)
- 12:07, 2-9: short left, incomplete. Daniel threw a pass randomly over everyone’s head, and then complained to the official that the ball was wet.
- 12:02, 3-9: short left. Tyler Matakevich was there about 1/2 a second too late for a sack. Daniel got the ball to his receiver, and Fort, who was about five yards back, ran up and desperately reached out to make the tackle, but didn’t. The receiver got an additional 8 yards or so before Shabazz pushed him out of bounds. (11 yards)
- 6:20, 1-10. The quarterback is now Mcleod Bethel-Thompson. Short middle, incomplete. Pass bounced off receiver’s hands. There were three guys ready to tackle him—Garner, Doran Grant, and Jermauria Rasco, who tried to get the deflected ball but didn’t.
- 6:14, 2-10: short right, incomplete. Again the receiver lets it through his hands. Grant and Matakevich were at the ready.
- 3:38, 3-6: short right. Two guys missed the tackle—the first one, Ray Vinopal, would have had him down behind the line of scrimmage. The second, Kevin White, would have held him to a yard or so. Julian Whigham finally pushed him out of bounds. (12 yards)
- 2:15, 3-2: short right. Montel Garner excavates for the ball during the tackle and Doran Grant recovers it.
That’s it, other than the kneel-downs.
Because so much of the game was short passes (I would guess the average position where the ball ended up was about three yards beyond the line of scrimmage,) a great deal of the heavy lifting was done by the linebackers who were in coverage. This makes it difficult to say anything definitively about the DBs. I’ll try anyhow:
It seemed to me as if there were essentially no incidents of a receiver being left all by themselves. Typically if a guy had a lot of grass around him when he caught the ball, he was in the backfield. I wasn’t entirely sure anyone had told the quarterbacks that the forward pass has been legal for some time now.
By the time there was a spate of missed tackles, the guys had been playing for a long time. Which doesn’t excuse them so much as explain them. (And everybody misses now and again, although admittedly the receivers out there didn’t exactly remind me of AB…)
The names which jumped out at me were Garner, Grant (more from the first half than the second,) and Shabazz. Shamarko Thomas didn’t do anything dumb, which continues to be encouraging. And boy can he hit! Overall, though, this game probably tells us a lot more about the defensive front and the linebackers than about the defensive backs.