This question could be posed to several aspects of the team.
What happened to Ben Roethlisberger, who threw four interceptions in the game.
What happened to Mike Tomlin, for not taking the risk of going for it on that 4th and 1 in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
But the biggest question everyone has asked was what happened to the defense.
How did the defense, which was Top 5 in almost every statistical category throughout the regular season, give up 40+ points to their AFC North rivals at home?
Many people were wondering if this was Keith Butler’s scheme getting predictable and tired, or was it simple player execution? These are two camps which many fans will never see the other side’s point of view. Some suggest it is the coaches who have to get their players prepared to make plays, while others expect the players to make the plays, regardless of coaching.
During an end of season interview, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick suggested it wasn’t scheme at all, but merely execution.
“It’s almost 100 percent mental,” said Fitzpatrick. “I don’t think there were too many times where we just lost one on one coverage. I think it was more leaving somebody wide open, which we don’t normally do or the times we do we lose games for a reason. Or whether it be not getting in your gap, or not fitting the run the right way. I don’t think any of it was being out physicaled. I think maybe we could have done a better job tackling, but when the running back is 10 yards down the field, it’s kind of hard to tackle him. Besides that, I think it was overall execution.
“It was a combination of different things, even in the games before we lost. We had people down, people that were hurt, people that really didn’t have a lot of experience that were out there which, attributes to the overall effect. I can’t explain why it all happened, or what we can stop from making it happen. We just have to go out there next year and make sure the execution not just on the front end, but the back end of the season is going to be an emphasis for sure.”
Some will read this quote and suggest this is just an intelligent player not throwing his coordinator under the bus, but it is hard to completely dismiss his comments either. The Steelers didn’t execute, and missed tackles were a theme throughout the team’s late season collapse, losing five of their final six games.
In my opinion, it wasn’t all or nothing with this debate. Butler’s scheme was predictable at times, and there were times when the Steelers’ defenders simply didn’t execute. Yes, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. It can be both.
Fans will continue to debate this throughout the offseason, especially with Keith Butler’s contract being renewed for the 2021 season, but one thing everyone can agree upon is the Steelers have to be better next season for the team to finally get over the proverbial hump and make a legitimate postseason run.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for a tumultuous, and uncertain, offseason.