By this time every Monday, Doug Pederson has done three media availabilities.
One is immediately after the game, the second is his contractually-mandated appearance on Angelo Cataldi’s show, and the third is a day-after session with credentialed media.
As such, he’s been asked three different times about the backbreaking Pittsburgh touchdown, the one that saw Chase Claypool run right by Nathan Gerry for the score that sealed a win for the home team.
Doug didn’t have much to say in the two previous media appearances, and instead credited Ben Roethlisberger for spotting a good matchup and calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers were in a five-wide set, the Eagles were playing split-field zone with dime personnel on the field, and Rodney McLeod wasn’t in position to help Gerry with the speedy rookie receiver.
Here’s the series of follow-up questions asked by media members on Monday afternoon:
Following up on that Chase Claypool fourth touchdown, you said Ben Roethlisberger recognized the matchup. Why was that the matchup that you guys went with in that situation? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: It was the coverage, it was the defense that was called, it was an empty formation. It’s no different when offensively, we go empty, I give Carson the play and then Carson audibles or checks to something, whether it may be a quick slant to Greg Ward or to Miles Sanders. He’s understanding the leverage of the defense and the matchup that he likes and so that was the case at the end of the game.
Could you have called timeout when you saw the match-up that you didn’t like and is there anything the defense could have done on that play? Should LB Nate Gerry have gotten more depth or S Rodney McLeod have been helping over top?(Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: You call a timeout and you burn a timeout in a situation where you’re trying to stop the offense on a third and seven, third and eight situation. Listen, we as coaches have to put our players in situations to be successful, and that falls on me as the head coach and I’ve got to make sure that I do that. I didn’t want to burn a time-out in that situation because I knew that we were going to have to get the ball back, and we could have used those timeouts there. So listen, it’s, again, it’s all about them making a play and recognizing the defense and making a play. I mean, we sit here today and go, okay, yeah, call a different defense. Okay, yeah, do this, do that, and it’s — it is what it is – they made a play —
I’m not questioning the call. I’m wondering how it was defended, the execution. Was the execution the way you would draw it up?(Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: Well, ultimately it was a touchdown, so obviously we can coach the defense and coach the play a little bit better. The awareness of where we were on the field, the down, the distance, all that kind of stuff we teach during the week. I mean, listen, it’s about awareness, down and distance, could Nate have maybe backed up a touch and tried to keep the play in front of him? Sure. The way the coverage was designed, though, from — listen, it was five wide. It was empty. The safeties had to be wide. Again, it’s great execution by the Steelers. I mean, I don’t know what else to tell you guys. They recognized the defense, attacked and got the touchdown.
There’s nothing more for Doug to say. He’s not going to say, “my defensive coordinator made a shit call at the time,” or “my general manager didn’t give me any linebackers to work with.” Gerry is typically going to be lined up on a tight end in the slot, so when they saw Claypool there instead, somebody should have called timeout, which would not have been ideal, but giving up a touchdown is even less ideal.
The only defender who seemed to recognize the issue was Nickell Robey-Coleman, who is motioning here for Gerry to back up a bit and give Claypool some cushion:
It’s a tough spot for McLeod. He has to respect the #2 receiver (to Claypool’s left) on a vertical threat also. That receiver breaks off into a curl and Jalen Mills is over there already, in his portion of the zone scheme, so that’s not the biggest threat. The biggest threat is Claypool splitting the safeties and just burning a slow linebacker who doesn’t contact him or throw off the route.
None of it is great, but there’s blame to go around. Should be interesting to hear what Jim Schwartz has to say on Tuesday.