Anyone who watched the Pittsburgh Steelers fall to the New England Patriots on the NFL's prime-time stage to kick off the 2015 regular season saw that the team has significant defensive issues. They ranged from simple tackling to more complex schematics which can be difficult to gauge by simply watching the game on national television. Nonetheless, after the game, the theme from players to coaches was based on poor communication and not a flawed scheme.
"There were a few times we didn't communicate or didn't have our eyes where they had to be," safety Mike Mitchell told Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Obviously, I'm not satisfied with the outcome. As long as we come up short, it's not good enough."
"We didn't get off the field, and we gave too many big plays," said inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. "We have to be more vocal and communicate better, but we had some times when were good out there."
"We did a good job against the run, but we've got to get better against the pass," linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "(New England) did a lot of window dressing by shifting Gronkowski and doing a lot of creative things."
"It's frustrating because I thought we prepared well for this game," said linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had seven tackles and two for losses while Timmons was limited to three tackles. "They caught us hurrying up, and we didn't have all the guys on the field.There are always some good things and bad things on film. We'll see what we can fix."
"When you don't make plays, you have to go back to the drawing board," Shazier said. "We're going to be a great defense. We have to get into position to make plays, because one or two more plays could have changed the momentum of the game."
The talk from the locker room shouldn't suggest there aren't any scheme issues surrounding the Steelers' defense, but if you watched the pre-snap issues which plagued the Steelers against the Patriots, it was easy to see that the issues very well could have stemmed from poor communication.
The Steelers held Tom Brady and company to 28 points, and most would argue they gave the team a chance to win. As many fans dwell on the loss, the players realize this is just the beginning of the journey for the Black-and-Gold. Communications will improve when the coaching staff finds the players they feel give them the best chance to win, and when players are not constantly rotated in and out of the game.
The theme of the Steelers' defense now shifts to improvement as they will host the San Francisco 49ers next Sunday at Heinz Field.
"The score is indicative that we had some opportunities, but we didn't capitalize on them," defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "We have to grow from it and improve."