Defense May Be Main Culprit in 0-5 Start
In today's Post Gazette
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers lost their first four games for many reasons and those are cited many times: Problems in the offensive line, running the ball and turning it over.
Another major reason, perhaps the biggest of all, is the decline of a once-great defense. The swagger on defense has changed to a stagger. The fall from grace has been precipitous.
A defense that finished No. 1 overall in the NFL in each of the past two seasons, and has not dropped below ninth since the previous century, is at No. 10 today in yards allowed. But that's not nearly the complete story.
At his news conference today, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced changes in the starting lineup. The PG's Ed Bouchette puts it all in context.
The defense once known as Blitzburgh because of the way it rampaged through offenses -- sacking and pillaging quarterbacks, slashing footballs out of their hands and swiping them when they threw them -- has become Pffffftzburgh. They have the same number of turnovers as Animal House's John "Bluto" Blutarsky's grade point average -- zero ... point ... zero.
LaMarr Woodley has come back to life as a pass rusher with three sacks, on pace for 12 over a full season. Trouble is, the rest of his teammates on defense are on pace to have four sacks combined over a full season.
As a team, that puts the Steelers on pace for 16 sacks in 16 games, or the same number James Harrison rang up by himself in 2008. Four times through the years they have had 10 in one game. They are on pace to eclipse their record of sack futility (19) set in the horrific 1988 season, when they had their worst record since the NFL merger at 5-11 -- a number they also might challenge.
They have fewer sacks than any defense in the NFL and are tied with the 0-5 Giants with an average of one per game. It's not because they don't get their chances at the quarterback; they rank 31st in the NFL in sacks per pass play.
The Steelers defense has turned as hitless as the Pirates' Neil Walker in the National League Division Series.
But that's still not as baffling as their inability to force a turnover, or at least luck into one. They are the only team in the NFL without one.
There's also a matter of stopping the run. The Steelers ranked No. 1 doing that four times this century. They were No. 2 twice, including last season, and No. 3 four other times since 2001. Today, they stand 25th against the run. The only time they finished a season lower than that since the 1970 merger came was, again, in 1988 when they ranked 28th.
They don't quite have the look of a Steelers defense that the late Dwight White once called "soft and cheesy" in the 1980s, but they're making Warren Sapp's comments from two years ago look only a bit premature, that they're "old, slow and it's over."
Toward that end, coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday he will make a major change in his starting lineup by switching one former first-round draft pick with another -- Cameron Heyward (2011) will replace Ziggy Hood (2009) as the starting left defensive end.
"He has and he will play more and deservedly so," Tomlin said of Heyward, who has been spelling Brett Keisel the past two seasons at right defensive end.
"I think he's been really solid, not taking anything away from Ziggy. Obviously, both guys will continue to play. We just want Cam to play more than he's been playing and in order to ensure that, we're going to put him in the starting lineup."
And that will be the extent of the lineup changes on defense as the Steelers prepare to play at the surprising New York Jets (3-2) Sunday.
Oh, and there will continue to be an emphasis on tackling and ripping the ball away from opponents.
"From a player's standpoint, even though we're not practicing in pads, I think that ball security and getting to the football on defense are things that you can practice, regardless of circumstance," Tomlin said. "From a ball security standpoint, it's mechanics -- the points of pressure on the ball and making it as a point of emphasis.
"Defensively, obviously tackling, as big of a part of tackling as anything is the approach and making sure that you have correct angles to the ball, you have bent knees and ankles. We have an opportunity to do that every time the ball is snapped."
Ben and the defense are clearly the #1. When your defense and team is struggling, you can't turn the ball over as much as Ben has. His turnovers are not freak accidents or amazing INTs. It's been reckless. You just can't and expect to win.
I really dont beleive in the those stats.... it happens when the opposing offense have the ball more due to us turning the ball over.
but the thing is the sloppy tackling.. which led to the big plays. i am not sure if it the infusion of the newer players not gelling as a unit yet.
In Ben's defense, he is on pace for 5,000 yards. Last week, he played (what Polian called) one of the greatest QB games in recent memory. Meanwhile, the D has let the Murderer's Row of: Cutler (Ruth), Dalton (Gehrig), Locker, and Sam Cassell (can't recall other Murderer Row members)... and have not been able to turn the ball over once. And NOW--they get the vaunted Geno Smith (Joe Dimaggio)?
Originally Posted by steelz09
Anytime a guy turns the ball over twice and loses isn't a great game imho. I really wonder how many games of Ben's Polian has watched. Sure Ben had his moments, but he always does. And he always has some bad moments mixed in there.
Originally Posted by Shoe
If you look at Ben's career, the reality is he's never consistently performed over 60 minutes. It's like he's mediocre mixed in with a big arm and and uncanny ability to go off script and make plays no one else could. In retrospect, if the D isn't carrying him and keeping the game close so his 1 or 2 key plays put us over the top, then we're up the crick without a paddle.
During the Dynasty years, the D carried us to the first 2 SuperBowls and then TB became a great QB and carried the load. Unfortunately, Ben and the offense haven't made a similar transition this time around and carried the load to get us 2 more SB victories.
Hall of Famer
I think this game is about points
Steelers defense gives up 27.5 points per game for a ranking of 23rd
Steelers offense scores 17.2 points per game for a ranking of 29th
I'd say neither side is holding up its end.
Originally Posted by ikestops85
Again, that number may be skewed...
Originally Posted by ikestops85
A pick 6 counts in those numbers against the defense...
A turnover by the offense inside their own red zone counts against the defense...
If the D can tackle and the O can protect the ball, we can win a lot of games.
What games have you been watching? Most of the turnovers are from a bad OL ......
Originally Posted by steelz09