Wow. Many surprises in Wk 1. @SBNation: on your team, who is now facing the pressure to perform? ... http://t.co/fez0V7D33a— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 10, 2014
The coaching staff is on the team. Players play and coaches coach but they all collectively feel the heat when they lose. Pittsburgh's 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens feels like two consecutive losses, even if they stand at 1-1.
A 10-3 halftime deficit grew to 26-6 before all was said and done. That put the Steelers' combined score over its last six quarters at 40-9, very reminiscent of a 2013 campaign in which the Steelers lost their first four games, competing - kind of - in two of those games with the defense surrendering an average of 27.5 points per game.
Through two games this year, it's 26.5 points per game.
Pressure to respond is mounting in a season in which the Steelers have now, officially, gotten off to a slow start on the defensive side of the ball for a fourth consecutive year. This team is left scrambling for answers which the motto "the standard is the standard" simply cannot cover. For the second straight year, the defense has failed to produce a takeaway in its first two games, and perhaps hitting a new low, they failed to register even a hurry against the quarterback (Joe Flacco in Thursday's case), let alone a sack.
The Steelers added athleticism to their secondary with the signing of free safety Mike Mitchell, but he has more personal-foul penalties (two) than passes defensed (0), and the secondary as a whole grabs and holds onto more facemasks than passes from the opposing quarterback. Ike Taylor dropped an interception in Week 1, Cortez Allen dropped one in Week 2. They've managed to get close to the ball on very few throws and teams are picking them apart underneath.
Figuring out exactly how to deal with this three-plus-year trend is an ongoing challenge and has been since the 2011 season. While they managed to knock passes down that year, they failed to register sacks, get interceptions or force fumbles. Now they're doing none of the above and the defense is left on the field gassed and weary, sometimes managing to hold up in the red zone and force the field goal.
The pressure is certainly there. Come Week 3, they're going to need to respond or this season might end up 2013 2.0.
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