View Full Version : Add Defense to the Steelers’ Woes

11-30-2009, 07:10 PM
Add Defense to the Steelers’ Woes

Forget that Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin may have a fissure to fix in his locker room over the players’ confusion about the decision not to play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Ravens. The Steelers’ more difficult job may be to fix the defense.

The most shocking thing about the Steelers’ slump — that’s three losses in a row, to put the defending champions on the brink of missing the playoffs — is that the defense has done the damage. It was especially glaring Sunday night when the defense wasted the backup quarterback Dennis Dixon’s out-of-nowhere effort and surrendered a fourth-quarter lead with a chance to steal an entirely unexpected victory sans Roethlisberger.

Of the Steelers’ five losses this season, four of them came after they held a lead in the fourth quarter. That simply does not happen in Pittsburgh, where Dick LeBeau has crafted a merciless defense that last season confounded Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

So, what’s the problem? Safety Troy Polamalu, who is so talented and instinctive that LeBeau once said he lets him move around almost at will, is out with a bad knee. That surely has had an impact on the defense that last season was ranked first in total and pass defense. It is hard to imagine that the Steelers would have yielded four passes for 20 yards or more to Flacco or five passes for 20 yards or more to the Chiefs last week if Polamalu was able to play. Would Derrick Mason have been open in the middle of the Steelers’ defense for a 17-yard catch on third-and-22? Would Ray Rice have created a carnival of missed tackles on his fourth-and-5, 44-yard catch-and-run? Probably not.

But the former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who played for the Steelers and is now an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America,” said that blaming Polamalu’s absence would be a crutch. “That’s overrated — we played a lot of games without Bob Sanders,” Dungy said of the Colts’ often injured safety.

A greater problem, Dungy said, is that the Steelers have had a bit of an identity crisis this season, eschewing their traditional mentality of using the run to set up the pass for a pass-heavy attack. “We’re going to be 500 yards of offense,” Dungy said, describing the Steelers’ thinking.

That approach has set up the defense for trouble. With a lead, the offense has struggled to run and eat up the clock as it tries to give the defense rest and limit how long it has to hold off the opposing offense. Against Kansas City, the Steelers attempted 42 passes and ran 31 times. Against Cincinnati, they passed 40 times and ran just 18 times. In their last victory, against Denver, the Steelers were perfectly balanced, with 29 passes and 29 rushes. Not surprisingly, with Roethlisberger out, the offense relied more on the run, with 38 attempts, compared with 26 throws.

“They’re just going through a slump,” Dungy said. “We went through that in our Super Bowl year. You’re not going to play perfect every week, but your hope is you’re playing your best in December. They’re playing all these games in prime time; they’re a red letter game for everybody. They’re on the road, a night game, the schedule is a little off. Kansas City was waiting for them all year. It’s a combination of scheduling and other teams being ready for them.”

The schedule may start to help the Steelers next week: victories will assuage the players’ frustration, as expressed by Hines Ward on NBC, at not having Roethlisberger against the Ravens. The division title is probably out of reach, but with games against Oakland, Cleveland, Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami, the Steelers can reasonably expect to win four of them, including against Baltimore at home, assuming Roethlisberger returns.

Last year Coach Mike Tomlin quoted Robert Frost as his team went to the Super Bowl, talking about their miles to go before they rested. On Sunday night Tomlin, the William & Mary graduate, took a darker turn, reaching for Dylan Thomas’s meditation on death, vowing that the Steelers would not go gently. The light is apparently not dying on this season quite yet.

“Don’t talk to me about moral victories and things of that nature,” Tomlin said. “We didn’t get the job done. Everybody that’s around us has the same problems that we have. I just acknowledge that we’re going to be in attack mode.”

(rest of the article is not about the Steelers - mesa)

11-30-2009, 07:13 PM
So...tge defense cant tackle, cant hold leads because...the Offense is to pass happy? thats stupid.