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Old 12-03-2014, 01:15 PM   #1
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Default Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

Column: This defense embarrasses Steelers

DEJAN KOVACEVIC, DK ON PITTSBURGH SPORTS

Brett Keisel looked the other way.

The Steelers’ defense had just taken to Heinz Field, still at least theoretically within range of the Saints after a Le’Veon Bell touchdown closed the deficit to eight. The place had actually begun hoping, even hopping with the requisite PA blast of of Styx’s ‘Renegade’ aimed, as always, at sparking a defensive stand.

“It was a big moment,” Ike Taylor would recall later. “We all felt it.”

Not all. No way. Because there was Keisel pacing, slowly, purposefully toward the south end zone, as the Saints’ offense had set up in the north. The helmet was off, the Beard was jutted forward, and his distant, skyward gaze gave it away: Something was wrong. Really wrong.

And as my eyes caught this, as if a Greek chorus had felt compelled to chime in, right there in the background, one scene overlapping the other, Drew Brees connected on a 69-yard sideline strike for a Kenny Stills touchdown, with Taylor torched in his wake.

The end, indeed, huh?

If anyone knew for certain that Keisel’s triceps muscle was torn on the previous series, they weren’t saying after the Steelers’ 35-32 loss to New Orleans. But the long faces of those closest to him, the veterans on defense who have respected him for more than a decade and the youngsters who revered him, those gave it away.

“Not good,” Troy Polamalu said.

They’d know, too. Because they saw it with another great defensive end, Aaron Smith. Same injury. Career-ending. Even after a dogged comeback.

Keisel is 36. If he goes on injured reserve, he’s almost surely done. And this after returning from at least a partial retirement over the summer to become nothing less than his team’s premier defensive performer. He didn’t accept being a backup. He pushed himself, as ever, toward excellence. And he did so on and off the field, leading by word and deed like no one else on the roster.

What a crying shame that captivating tale couldn’t continue.

But here, too, if that Greek chorus again entered the stage, the background topic would still be this: It’s even more of a crying shame that Keisel stood out the way he did.

The big man wasn’t available for interviews after the game, for obvious reasons. But a couple of weeks ago, he and I were walking off the field together after a practice on the South Side. I’d casually mentioned being impressed by the defensive line’s potent showings against the Panthers and Ravens this season, and I asked how, or if, that might again someday become the Steelers’ identity. You know, that force that pushes and shoves and wills its way to success.

“Long term? I don’t know,” Keisel came back. “Lucky for us, we’ve still got a few guys around here who still know what it means to be a Steeler.”

You should have seen the smile. And it was a knowing smile, at that, because he was right: There are a few guys. But far, far too few.

And most unfortunately, as witnessed again Sunday, among those are some gentlemen who are far, far too old.

People will fuss over Ben Roethlisberger’s awful first half, and that’s wholly fair. He did strike his right hand on a New Orleans player’s hand early, but you can see here that he wouldn’t bite at two chances I gave him to blame any injury:


There also will be the standard fuss over playing down to another losing team — that’s 11-10 for Mike Tomlin in the past three seasons, as outrageous a stat as exists related to this coach — or dubious schematics and playcalling, highlighted for me by any time anyone thinks it’s a really clever idea to run Dri Archer up the middle for two inches and a spec of dust.

(Seriously, on that last one, we get it already: They won’t see it coming. But maybe there’s a reason they don’t care if they see it coming or not.)

Sorry, but I’m not riding any of those rails with this one.

This was about the most embarrassing defense the Steelers have put forth since … wow, who can say?

And I use the term advisedly: It’s embarrassing for this franchise.

It’s embarrassing to see and hear the home crowd all revved up, even though they know it won’t end well. It’s one thing for the team to forfeit its pride in this facet, quite another to watch it strip the fans of theirs.

It’s embarrassing to see the five-win Saints roll up drives of 79, 80, 89 and 80 yards.

It’s embarrassing for any quarterback, even one as gifted as Drew Brees, to casually toss five touchdown passes.

It’s embarrassing that Cam Thomas, the worst defensive lineman in football, ever plays a snap.

It’s embarrassing that Nick Toon, a wiry, 218-pound wide receiver, somehow bull-rushed through not one, not two, not three, not four, but five — five! — Steelers on his way to a New Orleans touchdown. Foremost among them were Taylor and Polamalu.

It’s even embarrassing, if you want to get all symbolic, that this happened on the same goal line where, minutes earlier, the proud men of the 1974 Super Bowl championship team, the one that forged the identity for a franchise and its city, had lined up for a halftime 40th anniversary ceremony.

The Steelers’ first Super Bowl championship team in 1974 is recognized Sunday at halftime. — GETTY

Want to bet a handful of those guys up there would have fared better with Toon?

Honestly, I’m through dissecting this defense. Other than to say it’s done.

Sure, a few faces will change: Keisel’s absence might finally force Tomlin’s hand at playing Stephon Tuitt, but if Tomlin and Dick LeBeau really liked Tuitt, Thomas wouldn’t be out there at all. Jarvis Jones might someday return, but even if he does, there isn’t even optimism he could beat out another 36-year-old, James Harrison. Ryan Shazier might someday stay on the grass long enough to matter. Steve McLendon or Daniel McCullers might someday hold down nose tackle.

It’s all might, might, might.

Except, of course, in the secondary, where there are no answers of any kind. Taylor and Polamalu could not have looked older Sunday if they’d been wheeled out. Willie Gay isn’t far behind. Or is that far ahead? A ton of money is being flushed on Cortez Allen. And Mike Mitchell …

Well, just watch this. I asked Tomlin and a handful of defensive players about all the big plays, about all the points allowed, and Mitchell brings up the rear in more ways than one:

How about that guy, huh?

Here’s the answer for Mitchell: The Steelers have conceded 43 plays of 20-plus yards in the air, the ninth-highest total in the league. Keep clicking on that link, and you’ll find there have been nine others on the ground, as Polamalu stresses in the video. They’ve also conceded 11 plays of 40-plus yards in the air, tied for seventh-highest, plus one on the ground.

But if you want to talk really embarrassing, stop what you’re doing, raise your hand and count up how many interceptions or passes defensed you’ve had on an NFL field this season.

Closed fist, right?

Hey, congratulations, because you and Mitchell are tied!

This defense lacks talent, and that’s entirely on Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.

This defense lacks accountability, and it will lack even more without Keisel.

This defense, this institutional failure to fortify what long has been the foundation of the franchise, is suffocating the Steelers’ present and future.

And anyone not embarrassed by that … wow, that’s most embarrassing of all.
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Old 12-03-2014, 01:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

Our team has too many issues to exclusively pick on the defense.......this article is embarrassing.
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Old 12-03-2014, 01:42 PM   #3
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

The Steeler front office rolls their eyes at the article...
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Old 12-03-2014, 01:54 PM   #4
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

This team has two personalities. The 1st is the one that got blown out by the Browns and Ravens. The 2nd is the one that took it to the Colts and Ravens (2).

The only issue is we need Dr Phil to tell us which one will show up each game. Maybe we need Dr Phil to sit down with these guys and hypnotize the 2nd one hard wired into them.
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:26 PM   #5
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

It's not only been this season with the defense. It started in 2011, just a few months after we played in SBXLV vs the Packers. Since 2011, the Steelers have lacked any QB pressure, sacks, turnovers and interceptions. The offense CONTINUES to struggle within the red area. This is 3 straight years of it and it COULD be 3 straight years of 8-8.

Instead of blame, maybe we just need a small blowout because we are who we are. A very mediocre football team and we've been no better than that going on 3 straight seasons. This team is about as up and down as you'll get with a middle of the road football team.... for 3 straight seasons. Did I mention 3 straight seasons?

I have no idea what team will roll out come 1:00 at Cincinnati. No idea whatsoever. That's sad for a fanbase that knew week in and week out, win or lose, the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to stuff shit down your throat first and foremost. Now? Your guess is as good as mine or the bum shaking his cup for change outside of the empty parking garage's down at Heinz Field.
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:34 PM   #6
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

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Originally Posted by Steel Peon View Post
Our team has too many issues to exclusively pick on the defense.......this article is embarrassing.
Offense is top 10 in points and yardage.

Defense can't stop Zach Mettenberger.

This is on the defense. Our coordinator, talent and scheme is absolutely embarrassing. The good news is it likely won't be around in 2015.
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:35 PM   #7
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

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Originally Posted by StainlessStill View Post
It's not only been this season with the defense. It started in 2011, just a few months after we played in SBXLV vs the Packers. Since 2011, the Steelers have lacked any QB pressure, sacks, turnovers and interceptions. The offense CONTINUES to struggle within the red area. This is 3 straight years of it and it COULD be 3 straight years of 8-8.

Instead of blame, maybe we just need a small blowout because we are who we are. A very mediocre football team and we've been no better than that going on 3 straight seasons. This team is about as up and down as you'll get with a middle of the road football team.... for 3 straight seasons. Did I mention 3 straight seasons?

I have no idea what team will roll out come 1:00 at Cincinnati. No idea whatsoever. That's sad for a fanbase that knew week in and week out, win or lose, the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to stuff shit down your throat first and foremost. Now? Your guess is as good as mine or the bum shaking his cup for change outside of the empty parking garage's down at Heinz Field.
The red-zone efficiency problem is overstated. It needs to improve when they're on the road, where the Steelers rank dead last in red-zone efficiency, but they rank third at home, behind only the Raiders and Broncos. (The Steelers average about twice as many red-zone trips at home as the Raiders.)
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

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Offense is top 10 in points and yardage.
It'd be top five in points with better running near the goal line.
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

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It'd be top five in points with better running near the goal line.
That's what kills me sometimes.

First-&-goal from the 1 yard line... three passes.

I love BB, but Bell could get that ONE yard in his sleep.
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:42 PM   #10
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Default Re: Column: This defense embarrasses this franchise

If the offense isn't putting up 30-35+ we're not going to have much of a chance against any playoff level team

If they don't hit Matt Ryan... roddy white and Julio jones are going to give them a major ass whipping

It'll be another 40-50 point day.
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