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Steelers defense exposed again in loss to Tampa Bay

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The Jekyll-and-Hyde season continues for the Pittsburgh Steelers who sleepwalked their way to a 27-24 loss at home to Tampa Bay Sunday. Shocking as it was for many, this has become an all too familiar tale for JP and the Dick LeBeau-led Steelers defense.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I predicted this.

That's not how I like to start a conversation. Quite frankly, I've been wrong far more often than right over the years. It happens in our business and comes with the territory. But I hate to say I was right about this one.

In a season that already has written several strange-but-familiar storylines, the one penned by the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers would make Stephen King cringe.

Up by seven points twice, the Steelers allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to hang around and hang around (cue the Teddy KGB 'Kids got alligator blood' references) until yet another defensive meltdown led to a 27-24 win for the visitors.

After a very strong defensive effort in the first half that held the Tampa offense to only 64 yards, it was back to business-as-usual for the Dick LeBeau-led, swiss-cheese D.

Most of the 70's Steel Curtain has to be rolling over in their coffins at the wretched performance that took place in the waining seconds of the game that saw Tampa drive 46 yards in five plays. Granted, the Steelers offense didn't help by going 3-and-out on the previous possession while punter Brad Wing managed just 29 yards on his final punt to help set up the winning score. Those two factors also played a role.

But the Steelers' defense was victimized yet again and not only on the final drive. In fact, during the entire second half, the defense was by-in-large ineffective, allowing Tampa to rack-up 286 yards of offense and three scoring drives, including the final two in the all-important fourth quarter.

With just 40 seconds to play, the Steelers allowed Louis Murphy to preform a second Heinz Field miracle for the wrong team as he took a Mike Glennon pass and ran 41-yards to the Steelers 5 yard line with just 15 seconds to play.

In 2009 as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders, Murphy had a career day, hauling in four catches for 128 yards and two scores in another last-second loss suffered by the Steelers. Much like the '09 affair, Murphy had a late grab that set up the win.

Vincent Jackson caught a 5-yard pass from Glennon as he slid to the side of the end zone to plunge the dagger deep into the heart of Steelers Nation.

Not LeBeau's most shining moment for sure.

As the brilliant analysis and writing of Scott Kacsmar summed up nearly two years ago, the father of the zone blitz and his legend for creating waves of pressure didn't bother to show up for the second half. The end result was another Steelers fourth-quarter collapse and a loss to one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Nothing like this shocks me anymore. This is the Goodell NFL model that allows teams to be up one week and down the next and keeps teams in games when they ought to be down by 30 and running for cover. Parity is king and good teams (or the illusion of good teams) lose to bad ones every week.

Can't figure out the NFL? Join the club.

No this result isn't all that shocking. I can't say I predicted the exact result (I didn't), but I can surely say that I warned of it and asked players about it leading up to the game.

Did the 13 penalties for 125 yards help matters? Nope. Did the offense help in the second half, registering just eight of their 27 1st downs? No, they did not. Going 6-for-14 on third down wasn't of much assistance either. But none of that matters.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed about the Steelers and their tendency to collapse defensively in the second half. Unless major changes are made at the top as to who runs the defense, the standard 2nd half melts will remain in effect until further notice.

John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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