Run into any Pittsburgh Steelers fan who watched the Week-2 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers — the one where the Black-and-gold surrendered 51 points — and ask them what they thought. You’ll likely hear something like this:
“Boy, this defense sucks.”
“Offense better put up almost 40 points a game this year.”
“Mike Tomlin is supposed to be a defensive coach, how is the defense this bad?”
“Keith Butler has to go.”
You get my drift. Needless to say, the fan base’s confidence in the defense is wearing thin —if not already gone. So while a large portion of the fan base screams the sky is falling, they might find comfort knowing the players aren’t exactly ecstatic with their most recent performance either.
“Shoot, I’m going to be honest with you, 50 points is not something you ever want to give up,” Cameron Heyward told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “no matter who is out there.”
The statement by Heyward is something which clearly reverberated through the locker room. Even though starters like Heyward, Joe Haden, T.J. Watt, Mike Hilton and Sean Davis didn’t play Thursday night, the expectation doesn’t change.
“Whoever is out there — and I’m not trying to make excuses — has to make those plays,” said cornerback Joe Haden. “At the same time, we’re not too worried about it. We still have to tighten up on the tackles and have better communication.
“Myself, Cam and the guys not out there, we’d be able to help out a little bit, but we still can be a lot better.”
It’s easy to cry over spilled milk, but what exactly went wrong with the defense in Green Bay? Mike Tomlin gave his personal opinion immediately after the game.
“We lost leverage too much in coverage, particularly on possession downs,” Tomlin said. “You can’t do that. Leverage is a big element of football. I thought we didn’t do a good enough job there. I didn’t think we did a good enough job of pressuring and containing the quarterback. I thought that was significant early on possession downs.”
“A lot of it was technical mistakes,” Heyward said. “If we don’t do that, we’re not going to get beat like that, whether it’s angles to the ball, being in man and not keeping your leverage or not tackling well. Those are things that contribute to a loss.
“When I watch a game, I don’t want to look at the points. I look at why we did it. What can we do to get better? Is it something we can correct? If you can’t correct it, you shouldn’t be out there.”
Clearly, no one’s happy with the team’s most recent defensive performance but, at the same time, it comes down to what Tomlin said after the game. How the team responds to the performance vs. the Packers will tell him more than the performance itself. In other words, the performance was awful, but if they rectify those issues on Saturday when the Tennessee Titans come to Heinz Field, all is not lost.
The beauty of the preseason is the games don’t count. So no matter how good or bad a team plays, the goal is to constantly improve. Luckily for the Steelers’ defense, there’s plenty to improve on.