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Thread: Demise of the Defense Greatly Exaggerated

  1. #1
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    Demise of the Defense Greatly Exaggerated

    Lolley's 10 thoughts: Is that dominant enough?
    Dale Lolley
    By DALE LOLLEY
    Oct 18, 2020 • 10:44 PM

    Still don't think the Steelers have a dominant defense?

    There were a lot of those kind of comments following the Steelers' 38-29 win last week over the Eagles. After all, the Eagles had converted 10 of14 third downs in the game and scored 29 points.

    The Steelers still won the game, but that wasn't the point. The defense had looked human.

    Well, so much for that.

    The Browns entered Sunday's game having averaged 32 points per game in their four-game winning streak. They were supposed to be the Steelers' biggest test of the season.

    The Steelers held them to one touchdown in a 38-7 victory. They limited Cleveland's rushing attack, which entered leading the league at 188 yards per game, to 100 yards less than its average. And even that was a gift, as the Browns had less than 50 yards on the ground before third-stringer Dalton Hilliard busted off a 19-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

    Otherwise, a lot of the runs looked like this:


    The Browns didn't have any more success in the passing game. Baker Mayfield threw for 119 yards and was sacked four times, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions before being pulled at the end of the third quarter.

    Backup Case Keenum wasn't any better, completing just 5 of 10 passes in garbage time for 46 yards.

    All told, the Steelers added four more sacks and two more interceptions to their ledger, becoming just the second team in NFL history to have at least three sacks and an interception in each of their first five games since the 1985 Giants.

    Oh, and they stopped the Browns on third downs. Wait, they didn't stop the Browns on third down, they decimated Cleveland on third downs.

    Cleveland converted just 1 of its 12 third down attempts. The Browns attempted to convert three short fourth downs twice in the second half, failing to gain a single yard on any of those occasions.

    Again, this was a Cleveland team that had been averaging 188 yards rushing per game. Yes, it didn't have Nick Chubb. And right guard Wyatt Teller, who had been playing well, was out, as well.

    But the Browns still had 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt in that backfield. And the Browns weren't any worse off than the Steelers, who were missing All-Pro guard David DeCastro.

    "We had a better plan," Mike Tomlin said of the team's third-down turnaround but just as easily could have been talking about the defense as a whole.

    "It starts with us coaches and then the guys performed better, and they finished it off. But we both were JV last week, players and coaches. We got better this week."

    Don't believe that simple explanation for a minute. The Steelers might have executed better this week. But they are who we thought they were on defense.

    • Speaking of a team being who we thought they were, that's exactly what the Browns proved to be.

    The Browns are frontrunners. When everything is going great, it's all unicorns and roses. When things are not going as scripted, they fall apart.

    And then you see things such as Odell Beckham pouting on the sideline after throwing his helmet. Beckham had two catches for 25 yards in this game and was a complete non-factor.

    Hunt talked about how the Browns were going to play this game for somehow aggrieved defensive end Myles Garrett, who apparently deserved some kind of retribution from the Steelers for ripping Mason Rudolph's helmet off last season and then hitting him over the head with it.

    Hunt had 13 carries for 40 yards and two catches for 17. He was a non-factor.

    Joel Bitonio talked during the week when Browns reporters tried to stir things up by taking a Cam Heyward quote about wanting to hit Mayfield as some kind of affront about how the Browns would have Mayfield's back and would keep the Steelers off him. That didn't happen.

    That's the great thing about football. You can talk all you want. But at some point, you're going to have to back it up on the field. The Browns proved to be empty uniforms in that regard.

    • Garrett was largely invisible in this game, as well, though he was blocked into a sack at the end of the first half. Prior to that, the only way you knew he was on the field was when he jumped offside on a play.

    He was the center of attention for obvious reasons. First, he's really good. Second, he was the main player in that ugly incident last year in Cleveland that got him suspended for the remainder of the season.

    Garrett ran over and chatted with Tomlin prior to the start of the game. But the conversation wasn't what you thought.

    "Talking to him had nothing to do with last year," Garrett said after the game. "Him, his brother, my mother and my uncle all went to school together in Virginia, so we were just talking about that. I made a little joke about some phone games they had been playing, and that was it. He said, 'Good luck, live your life, have fun and tell your mother I said hello.'

    Garrett moved all over the Browns defense, trying different matchups. But he didn't have much success no matter where he lined up. He had four tackles and the sack.

    "We knew what kind of guy he is and what kind of player," Steelers guard Matt Feiler said. "So we just had to keep and eye on him and do what we had to do."



    https://www.dkpittsburghsports.com/2.../content_48667

  2. #2
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    continued;

    Of course, the Cleveland media also asked if the Steelers were stirring the pot with him, trying to "goad him into penalties." What a bunch of hooey.

    "They did not do anything uncharacteristic of them," Garrett replied to that nonsense. "They were scheming to try and get me off my game. They were getting after all of us. They were chipping, and the guard was staying in and staying close. They were making it difficult for us on defense."

    • James Conner ran with a much better demeanor today than he had the past couple of weeks, even though he was having some success in those games.

    Conner was putting his his head down and bullying straight ahead rather than always looking for the big gain.

    Instead of continuing to keep trying to bounce outside, Conner was more willing to put his foot in the dirt and go, as evidenced on this 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

    Perhaps Conner could have kept going to the outside and gotten into the end zone by running over a defensive back or two. But he puts his foot in the dirt and cuts up inside to get into the end zone.

    That's more of what we're used to seeing from Conner, who now has a touchdown in four consecutive games. The Steelers are now 8-0-1 in Conner's career when he rushes for 100 yards.

    • Some have already begun to speculate about the Steelers perhaps making a trade for an inside linebacker with Devin Bush out for the remainder of the season because of a torn ACL.

    We'll see. But the Steelers will probably take a good look at what they have on their own roster for now. The trade deadline isn't until Nov. 3, so they have a couple of weeks before they have to decide whether the group of Robert Spillane, Ulysees Gilbert and Marcus Allen can adequately replace Bush.

    Besides, if you listened to the naysayers, Bush wasn't playing that well, anyway. That was ridiculous. But we'll see now how valuable he was.

    • Was that a big enough splash play from Minkah Fitzpatrick?

    Much like Bush, if you're not making 15 tackles per game, forcing turnovers all over the field or showing up on the TV a lot, you're not playing well.

    That was never the case for Fitzpatrick. He's played well. He's just not been as impactful as he was in his first handful of games for the Steelers last season.

    "Teams have been staying away from Minkah," Bud Dupree said after this game.

    Somebody forgot to tell the Browns.

    • It was the Browns who were supposed to have the dominant offensive line. But it was the offensive line of the Steelers that controlled this game much better than anything Cleveland's line did.

    Sure, a big part of the reason for that is because the Steelers' defensive front might be the best unit in the NFL at any position. But the Browns offensive line was supposed to be in consideration for that, as well.

    Yet it looked lost in this game.

    Meanwhile, the Steelers did pretty much whatever they wanted in the trenches offensively. They pushed the Browns around.

    When Chuks Okorafor didn't win the right tackle job in training camp over Zach Banner, some viewed it as a failure by Okorafor. But as you can see, it wasn't as much that Okorafor isn't any good. It's that Banner was just slightly better. Okorafor as been rock solid at right tackle.

    Tomlin said this game was about the Steelers "bigs," meaning their offensive and defensive lines. The Steelers can outclass just about any team in the NFL when it comes down to those two groups.

    • Ben Roethlisberger -- can't believe we got this far into this without mentioning him -- started this game with just two completions in his first eight attempts. He then completed 12 of his next 14 passes.

    Statistically, this wasn't his best game, as he threw for 162 yards and a touchdown. But he was efficient. And his touchdown pass to James Washington on a double move was Roethlisberger at his best. A pump fake on the out-and-up route got two defenders to bite and left Washington by himself as he caught the ball going into the end zone.

    That's just a a veteran quarterback working a defense.

    "We didn't have to throw many in the second half when you have a lead like that," Roethlisberger said. "It felt like an old Bill Cowher offense."

    Roethlisberger used to hate that when he was younger and tagged as a "game manager." But he's in a much better place in his career now.

    • The Steelers have now held Saquon Barkley to 6 rushing yards on 15 carries, Melvin Gordon to 70 yards on 16 carries, David Johnson to 23 yards on 13 attempts, Miles Sanders to 80 yards on 11 carries and Hunt to 40 yards on 13 attempts. That's 3.2 yards per rushing attempt to the opposing team's No. 1 running back. And that includes Sanders' 74-yard touchdown run.

    Take that one out of the equation and the Steelers are giving up 2.2 yards per carry to opposing No. 1 running backs.

    That number will be tested by the Tennessee's Derrick Henry this week, but the smart money is on the Steelers at least containing Henry, especially considering Titans' left tackle Taylor Lewan left their win over the Texans early with what might be a torn ACL.

    • We'll see what's happening with Mike Hilton's shoulder. He came off with it hanging limply and did not return to this game. But that meant Cam Sutton played the slot the rest of the game. And Justin Layne entered and played in the dime package.

    Sutton even lined up at safety at times in place of Terrell Edmunds when the Steelers wanted to keep Tyson Alualu on the field to help stop the run but still be able to cover three-receiver packages.

    Sutton and Layne are nice depth to have. And rookie James Pierre continues to produce on special teams.

    The Steelers remain in good shape at cornerback.

  3. #3
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    Hopefully, they can continue play like they did yesterday, however Tannehill and Jackson are far better quarterbacks than what they have faced so far and they will miss Prescott due to injury.

    Pappy


    The referee said that you hit Brian Sipe too hard. Did you hit him too hard?
    I hit him as hard as I could - Jack Lambert

    2.49 - Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
    3.102 - Alex Highsmith, OLB, Charlotte
    4.124 - Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland
    4.135 - Kevin Dotson, G, Louisiana-Lafayette
    6.198 - Antoine Brooks Jr, S, Maryland
    7.232 - Carlos Davis, DL, Nebraska

  4. #4
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    Why pass up an opportunity to criticize and panic?????

    This defense was always going to be fine.

  5. #5
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    The Steelers defense can play great defense. They can also have bad games. The days of consistent dominating defenses are probably over. Greatness will only come if they can manage to help the team win the SB.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by papillon View Post
    Hopefully, they can continue play like they did yesterday, however Tannehill and Jackson are far better quarterbacks than what they have faced so far and they will miss Prescott due to injury.

    Pappy
    Agreed. Tannehill is playing very well. Titans will be the biggest challenge to-date.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eich View Post
    Agreed. Tannehill is playing very well. Titans will be the biggest challenge to-date.
    Very much so. I"m very, very concerned about the middle of our defense (linebackers) dealing with Henry. We are hobbled in that area with Bush being gone for the year.
    From the 2010-2019 season, (A 9 year period that the majority of Cowher's players & coaches had left) Mike Tomlin has only won 3 playoff games. And two of those wins were against back up Quarterbacks.

    Dolphin fans in the 90’s who wanted to hold on to Don Shula for what he did in the playoffs in the 70’s...
    Are the same as Steeler fans (of 2020 ) holding on to Tomlin for what he did in 2008, with Cowher's players & coaches

  8. #8
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    People love to create drama. The D was never that bad and it’s easy to create a narrative based on a few bad plays.
    Tomlin’s coming back so what can you do?


  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by feltdizz View Post
    People love to create drama. The D was never that bad and it’s easy to create a narrative based on a few bad plays.
    I don't think anyone was really that drama filled. I think we all were just ready to see last year's defense and we saw it against the Stains. There are some posters on here over-exaggerating things and trying to get a rise out of other posters. There was not one poster that I saw that was " the sky is falling; the sky is falling" over the defense.

    We move on to our toughest game of the season with the Titans.
    From the 2010-2019 season, (A 9 year period that the majority of Cowher's players & coaches had left) Mike Tomlin has only won 3 playoff games. And two of those wins were against back up Quarterbacks.

    Dolphin fans in the 90’s who wanted to hold on to Don Shula for what he did in the playoffs in the 70’s...
    Are the same as Steeler fans (of 2020 ) holding on to Tomlin for what he did in 2008, with Cowher's players & coaches

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel Maniac View Post
    I don't think anyone was really that drama filled. I think we all were just ready to see last year's defense and we saw it against the Stains. There are some posters on here over-exaggerating things and trying to get a rise out of other posters. There was not one poster that I saw that was " the sky is falling; the sky is falling" over the defense.

    We move on to our toughest game of the season with the Titans.
    $$$$
    Those who've been bashing posters for mentioning some concern over our D have been attempting to stir up their own brand of "drama".

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