As the fallout from Sunday’s horrible loss continues to build, the memory of one play should continue to standout as a potentially unwanted harbinger for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. No, it is not the 64-yard Darren McFadden touchdown run, or the borderline hit that Ryan Mundy delivered to Darius Heyward-Bey, Not even close. The play was a fourth down call by head coach Mike Tomlin in their own territory where the Steelers went for it on a fourth-and-one.Oakland Raiders offense. The Steelers converted that play, but could not finish the drive, something that overshadowed the call, and allowed the Raiders to pull out the victory.
While it is not a shock that the defense has struggled at times without stars James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, but these issues seem to run a lot deeper than those two injured players. During their two losses, the Steelers defense seemed to be outplayed in the second half, unable to either stop the run or pass in either game. In the first loss, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning shredded the defense in the no-huddle with short passes and a balance of run and pass. Sunday, quarterback Carson Palmer did not use the no-huddle, but the balanced attack was there.
Again, some will point to the injured players, but that should be viewed as s a falsity, as this same defense was in place in week two against the New York Jets and they stood up and delivered a physical performance. However, the Jets offense lacks the playmakers in the backfield that the Raiders boast and Mark Sanchez is nowhere near the quarterback that Palmer is.
Sure, the players are at fault as they are the ones that have to make plays, but schematically, the Steelers do not match-up well with a short controlled passing attack. For some this is no surprise, as memories of the 2009 season begin to creep into mind. It is hard to forget that season or this offensive game plan, one that has killed the Pittsburgh defense on-and-off for the past few seasons, especially that season.
With the bye week on tap, the coaching staff and defensive players must stand-up and face a tough reality. If they do not fix this fundamental flaw, it will be a long season in Pittsburgh.
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