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Film Room: All-Pro CB Reveals Who is Wrong for First 49ers TD (It’s Not Patrick Peterson)



Steelers safety Damontae Kazee
Steelers safety Damontae Kazee against the 49ers, Sept. 10, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Steelers secondary struggled on Sunday. No one more than Patrick Peterson, who ended up in the news due to the story about his ‘tells’ comment. While most will credit him with two touchdowns allowed on Sunday, it might just be one. The contested catch is undoubtedly just a great play by Brandon Aiyuk, but the first touchdown may not have ended with Peterson.

All-Pro cornerback and analyst Richard Sherman broke down the first touchdown on X. In his mind, that play is more on Damontae Kazee than Peterson due to how the play is structured from the jump.

Let’s jump into the play to see what Sherman is talking about. Once the concept the Steelers are running is revealed a bit more, it makes sense why he blames Kazee for this more than Peterson.

The 49ers only ran two routes on this play with Deebo Samuel and Aiyuk. It is a post into a crosser. The eight-man protection probably throws the Steelers off a little bit. Levi Wallace and Keanu Neal are tasked with bracketing George Kittle on this play. When that never comes, and Samuel runs over on the crosser, the bracket turns to him.

It’s a simple numbers game. Pittsburgh has four guys for two receivers. They are playing Red 4, or a variation of quarters that has principles in different schemes of when to pass off receivers and match them. The Steelers have had this in their playbook for years.

Patrick Peterson plays with an outside shade to guard against the corner or out route here. He is okay with giving up that inside because he has safety help to the inside in Kazee. Peterson slipping does not help, but that is not why this play happened. Aiyuk gets wide open because of the quarter’s safety bails on this play.

So, let me try to get into the mind of Kazee. He runs with Samuel, reading Brock Purdy’s eyes that remain locked on him the entire way. Now, two possibilities occurred here. One, Kazee got caught looking in the backfield at Purdy and risked busting that zone on the backside to try and make a big play here.

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The second possibility is a talk of conversation that Mike Tomlin brought up during his press conference Tuesday. He did not feel the communication was up to snuff for the Steelers. Without knowing it’s a two-man route concept before the snap, Kazee could have performed what is known as a ‘shove,’ which means he will follow Samuel the whole way and make it a man-to-man scenario, usually to double a receiver or bracket them. If that is the case, Kazee needs to communicate that fact with Peterson pre-snap so Peterson can play with inside leverage instead of outside leverage.

But the bottom line of this play is that it is exemplary of what the Steelers did wrong on the defensive side of the ball on Sunday, whether it is undisciplined position basics from Kazee with his eyes or a failure to communicate pre-snap about the shove call, Pittsburgh needs to get these things cleaned up.

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