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Pittsburgh Still Finding Their Way Defensively - Anatomy Of An Overmatched Secondary

Okay, one more breakdown of a poor defensive play by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense. This time the culprit was journeyman cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, the former Colts defensive back that was acquired this past summer during free agency. Let's take a look at just how badly he got beaten during the 4th quarter of Pittsburgh's 28-20 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.


Pretty straight forward stuff here. Ratliff is responsible for Dennis Northcut in the slot.

More after the jump.


There's not much to show really other than that he's not even close to being in position to make a play on the ball. It helped Detroit that their pass protection held up nicely and Culpepper was able to look over the middle of the field without feeling too much heat.

But again, here's an example of how the Steelers defense is really getting exposed over the middle of the football field. That's usually Polamalu's territory of course, so perhaps he'd have been more involved in the play than Ryan Clark was. The bottom line though is that this kind of play is far more troubling than the last play I broke down. Why? Because this was simply a matter of a guy getting eaten up individually rather than the defense getting beaten to the punch by a perfectly designed and executed play.

I can't necessarily confirm this without watching much more film than I have time for, but I am beginning to wonder if the Steelers aren't shading Ryan Clark too heavily in the direction of where William Gay's man is. I've noticed multiple occasions where this is the case.  If Deshea Townsend - who by the way is not doing anything this year - is being shaded more towards Ike Taylor's man, this could be problematic. The best defenses are those that are confident in leaving their cornerbacks out on an island with opposing receivers. I haven't seen that as much recently, and consequently, I feel like the middle of the field is being left too open. NFL offenses feast on big plays over the middle, and without Polamalu in there to help our dime and nickel packages, we're seeing uncharacteristically big chunks of yardage take place in that part of the football field.

To conclude, this is why I was concerned about the departure of Bryant McFadden. William Gay proved he was great in zone coverage last year and a good ball-hawk when allowed to roam free in zone looks. As a 1-on-1 corner, he understandably has work to do. He's getting better though each week, which is encouraging. Finally, I heard many fans argue that Deshea Townsend was basically as good as McFadden and that him and Gay combined would more than offset the loss of B-Mac. Well, Townsend's playing terrible football. Has anybody seen him this year? I haven't, and consequently, we're seeing this secondary struggle collectively.