"They handled us and they handled us well." - head coach Mike Tomlin after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots.
Where do we begin?
Steelers walked into Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon with their
playoff hopes hanging by a thread. The Patriots ceremoniously cut that
thread, dropping the once mighty Steelers to a lowly 2-6. It's almost
too difficult breaking down this loss. Like Steelers announcer Bill
Hillgrove said after the game, "Too many stats."
for that very reason that we're going to leave the majority of the
actual breakdown to Bob Labriola so that we can focus on a broader
problem. - http://tinyurl.com/p95fuqm
one scribe wrote in his article following the game was that the
Steelers had "one of the top pass defenses statistically heading into
the game." Well, it is Mark Twain who is credited with the quote,"There
are three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics."
poor performance we saw in last Sunday's 21-18 loss to the Oakland
Raiders prove some numbers don't lie, though. Meaning, in that case, the
numbers of missed sacks, missed tackles and the many missed
retrospect, that was a virtuoso performance compared to what the
Steelers defense tried to pass off as professional against the Patriots.
Worilds had pity sacks (pun intended) and LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence
Timmons and Vince Williams got pressure only a few times, but none of it
was enough. The Steelers did actually have several pressures, as helped
by defensive ends Brett Keisel and Cam Heyward, but too few led to
sacks managing only three for the game.
say that their current effort simply isn't enough is an understatement.
For a point of reference, the Kansas City Chiefs not only lead the NFL
in sacks (36) and forced turnover (23) through nine games, but also in
wins. In fact, their 9-0 record is, in large part, due to those sacks
used to be the Steelers forte: a rock-hard, fearsome defense that
punished quarterbacks and teams in general. They led the league or were
top three in the league in sacks six times in the 10 years from
2001 .................. 55
2002 .................. 50
2003 .................. 35
2004 .................. 41
2005 .................. 47
2006 .................. 39
2007 .................. 36
2008 .................. 51
2009 .................. 47
2010 .................. 48
the crux of this article, though. The defense isn't feared as it has
been, nor does it cause the chaotic confusion it once did. A confusion
that is supposed to be the driving force behind the 3-4 scheme defensive
coordinator Dick LeBeau uses.
season, Raiders' quarterback made reference to the Steelers doing
pretty much what they had done "six, seven years ago." Sunday against
the Patriots, the Steelers had to blitz regularly just to get the amount
of pressure alluded to earlier. And it may simply be time to make one
very hard decision.
It may be time for Dick LeBeau to retire and allow new blood in at defensive coordinator.
it hurts to even write that. LeBeau is tremendously respected and is
one of the best all time at what he does. Few have achieved more in
football than Dick LeBeau, as a player, as a coach and as a man. Who
doesn't love Coach Dad?
the evidence has been there over the last few years and it's a subject
that needs to be addressed now. The word "predictable" has now been
used entirely too often in connection with Lebeau and his schemes. And
while execution always trumps predictability, there is too much evidence
to be ignored.
look at Super Bowl 45 an example, where the Green Bay Packers exploited
the Steelers secondary all game. It could have been worse, also, as
the Packers receivers dropped several balls, including a few that would
have been big gains.
was most bothersome, though, was after the Steelers had stormed back
and made it a 28-25 ball game with just over seven minutes left, the
defense gave up a huge clock killing field goal drive. The Steelers
didn't get the ball back till the 2:07 mark. The defense just couldn't
get off the field.
like they couldn't Sunday against the Patriots. And there have simply
been too many situations where the defense does not show up when needed
most, especially late in games.
with this last example being presented, it is clear that changes must
be made. LeBeau had seemingly shown the ability to change his attack
given the circumstances, as he did in the last New England Patriots game
in 2011. Yet, his game plan was horrible, reverting back to previous
much base defense, not enough bump coverage, barely any effective
"quarters" coverage and great liabilities in Troy Polamalu and Ryan
Clark. All of this allowing quarterback Tom Brady, held to 118 passing
yards the week before, to pass for 432 yards. His 151.4 QBR was nearly
Patriots put up 610 yards total - 98 more yards than a LeBeau-coached
or any Steelers' defense has ever allowed. The 55 points were
the most ever allowed, also, by any Steelers' defense, with the
previous high being 54 points set twice - in 1941 to the Packers and in
1985 to the San Diego Chargers.
as disappointed as I have been," Tomlin said after the game,
"especially under the circumstances of how we were able to fight back
there at the beginning of the second half. I am angry. We are capable
and better than that. We've got to be better than that. We weren't, so
we are going to fix it." - http://tinyurl.com/kkscnsy
defense couldn't stop the pass, made rookie receivers look like
seasoned veterans and, worst of all, they couldn't stop the run - they
surrendered almost 200 yards on the ground. Worst of all, the last
rushing touchdown scored by the Patriots was just the bully being
bullied as LeGarrette Blount powered out of the arms of Ziggy Hood to
"For a long time here we've been tough because we've played great defense here", Keisel said. "We need to get back to that."
were unprepared, outmatched and outclassed. In neither scheme nor
adjustments were the Steelers successful. Like Clark said, the Patriots
"were able to run it when they wanted to run it, which is an 11-man job,
and they were also able to pass it when they wanted to pass it, which
is an 11-man job....We were beat by a much better team."
isn't merely a player-execution problem when it's as consistent as it
has been for the Steelers. Like Tomlin said, they need to fix it. Well,
there's a lot to fix.
And fixing it starts from the top of the defensive pyramid down.
TIDBITS: Injury report: CB Ike Taylor (concussion), ILB Vince Williams (concussion) RT Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
"I got rolled up on my bad ankle, but I'll be fine." ~ Gilbert