View Full Version : Defense not taking the lead

09-28-2009, 07:11 AM
Defense not taking the lead
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com

CINCINNATI - Somebody should call a doctor because if the Steelers don't find a cure for their Super Bowl hangover, it's going to be a long, cold January with no postseason in Pittsburgh.

And that would be a shame.

The Steelers have historically found ways to win games when they held fourth-quarter leads, such as the 14-7 edge they had in Chicago last week, and the 20-9 advantage they had against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.

Under former head coach Bill Cowher, the Steelers were 111-1-1 in games they held a lead of 10 or more points in the fourth quarter.

Those are games you should win when you're a good team, particularly one with as many defensive stars as the Steelers.

"History is not going to make the plays," said linebacker James Farrior, one of those stars. "We established ourselves in the first half. We've got to come out in the second half and not let teams hang around."

That killer instinct is something that helped the Steelers win close games in previous seasons.

But it's time to acknowledge that this once-great defense - without its top playmaker, Troy Polamalu - isn't where it was a year ago at this time.

How else can one explain the Steelers allowing 27 fourth quarter points this season, compared to 23 in the first three quarters?

"It's not just Troy; there are 11 guys out there," said safety Ryan Clark. "Troy's a great player, the best at his position in the league and probably our best defensive player - at least in my opinion. But we've got other playmakers out there."

Right now, they're not making any plays.

Since Polamalu went down with a sprained knee in the second quarter of the opener against Tennessee, the Steelers have been outscored 50-40.

On Sunday, Cincinnati looked dead in the water. The Bengals had negative yardage in the first quarter and didn't pick up their first first down until 11:27 remained in the second quarter.

The Bengals had 117 yards on their first seven possessions. Yet, there they were in the fourth quarter moving the ball up and down the field against the Steelers, gaining 156 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

"It's disappointing," said Farrior. "We just kept making mistakes, not being in the right spot, missing tackles. In critical situations, you can't have that kind of stuff come up."

But this defense looks a step slow, as if age is finally starting to catch up with it. Six defensive starters in Sunday's game were over 30-years old. In two weeks, they'll be joined by Clark.

"I've never called them a veteran defense or an old defense. It's our defense," said head coach Mike Tomlin.

But it's a defense that needs to find a way to play without its best player, though Polamalu could be back in two weeks when the Steelers play Detroit.

By then, this team may have already matched its 1-3 start from 2006, the season after it won a Super Bowl.

It's Tomlin's job to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We've got to make critical plays at critical moments and we have people capable of doing it," Tomlin said. "We have people who's resumes are full of those kind of plays. We've just got to find a way to get it out of them."

09-28-2009, 07:27 AM
this sunday night is where tomlin creates another DEFINING MOMENT in his coaching career, one way or the other.

09-28-2009, 07:55 AM
I believe that, what we're facing right now is the damned SB hang-over.
We may have an aging defense but I wouldn't believe that it's so aged that it can't keep up with younger offenses. That just can't happen in an one-year span!

And after seeing Tomlin's post-game press conference, I believe that things will change for the better. Boy, was he pissed.