Full disclosure: I’d be perfectly fine without naming scapegoats for the troubles of the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers, who dropped their second-straight game on Sunday and are now 8-7 and, with one week to go in the regular season, in-need of a minor Christmas miracle in-order to make the postseason.
But since scapegoats are always a thing, even during a season in-which the Steelers offense hasn’t stopped being a shell of its former self, we must come up with at least a few after every loss, like Sunday’s 16-10 defeat at the hands of the Jets.
If I had to name my favorite scapegoat of 2019—and this is for irony’s sake more than anything—it would be offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, the guy who, despite the sudden losses of Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, as well as the frequent absences of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, just has never been able to put the offense in a position to succeed.
There are other scapegoats that are dear to my heart, but what this man simply won’t accept from you is wagging your finger at the defense.
Nope, I just won’t allow it.
I realize the defense didn’t look its best early on in Sunday’s contest, when it allowed the Jets to march 75 yards on 11 plays on their first drive to take a 7-0 lead.
Where was the pressure on quarterback Sam Darnold during that drive? Why wasn’t safety Terrell Edmunds, the new red-headed step child of the Steelers defense now that Bud Dupree is no longer an epic bust, in just the right spot to make a play on Darnold’s perfectly thrown pass that receiver Robby Anderson pulled in for a 23-yard score?
To quote the late, great Dwight White, “Sometimes, that bleep happens.”
Relax, the defense mostly settled down after that--unless, of course, there’s a whole new definition for settling down, considering the unit only allowed nine points and 184 yards over New York’s next 12 possessions.
The defense even set up the Steelers weekly offensive touchdown, when all-everything outside linebacker T.J. Watt sacked and stripped Darnold of the football late in the second quarter.
Today, you might be questioning the defense’s inability to come away with more sacks and turnovers in Sunday’s game as a means to give the offense more premium scoring opportunities.
Sorry, but this isn’t the NHL, and the offense can’t always depend on the power play of a short field in order to score points.
This defense has done more than its fair share.
We’re talking about a unit that has given up an average of 18.3 points per game in 2019. This defense has allowed an average of 12.6 points per game over the past five weeks and hasn’t given up more than 17 in any match-up since it yielded 21 to the Browns on November 14.
That might not be on par with the 1976 Steelers defense that allowed a total of 28 points over its last nine games, but for modern football, what Keith Butler’s unit is doing is tremendous.
Yes, logically, one would think it’s quite obvious what ails the Steelers in 2019—the loss of extremely talented offensive personnel. But if you’re going to take the illogical route for who’s to blame, as the kids say these days, keep that awesome defense out of your mouth.