2012 NFL Playoffs

Steelers vs. Broncos: Pittsburgh Defense Must Undergo Major Changes After Defeat

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08:  Ike Taylor (L) #24 and Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pray together prior turnover the start of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers in overtime 23-29.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Eric BallFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2012

The Pittsburgh Steelers were too cocky and they paid the ultimate price.

They installed a game plan that centered on stopping the run and forcing Tim Tebow to throw the ball. They stacked eight and sometimes even nine defenders in the box (within five yards of the line of scrimmage) and almost assumed the run on first and second down.

The final score of 29-23 showed everything had backfired. Now it’s time for a shakeup. Here are three people that should be strongly re-evaluated by the Steelers front office in the offseason:

 

Ike Taylor, CB

Letting Tebow throw for a career-high 316 yards is unacceptable. Taylor signed a fat contract in the offseason, but was exposed horribly on Sunday. He was abused by Demaryius Thomas for catches of 51, 58 and the 80-yard game-winner.

At the age of 31, it’s clear he has lost a step or two in coverage and the Steelers must strongly consider drafting a corner in the first or second round. Taylor’s time as a strong corner is up.

 

Dick Lebeau, Defensive Coordinator

The Hall of Famer has received plenty of accolades over the last eight seasons as the Steelers defensive coordinator. People forget about his horrific 12-33 record as a head coach, but that’s a whole different story.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24:  Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches his team warm up prior to the Christmas Eve game against St. Louis Rams on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared W
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

There is no way around it; LeBeau’s game plan against Denver was awful. You can make all of the injury excuses you want, but the Broncos offense outsmarted the Steelers defense. The blame falls on LeBeau. The lack of in-game adjustments was appalling.

At the age of 74, it’s time to hang up the clipboard and allow a younger coach to take over.

 

Casey Hampton, DT

The results just weren’t there with Hampton this season.

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Casey Hampton #98 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on before the Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

He left Sunday’s loss with a knee injury and it was fitting. He vanished for most of the season and wasn’t there when they really needed him to clog the line of scrimmage.

He finished the year with a mere 17 solo tackles and didn’t collect a sack for the first time in six seasons. As Hampton enters his 12th season in the league, it’s clear he isn’t the same player of years past. He’ll be battling Steve McLendon for the starting gig at nose tackle next year.

Count on McLendon winning it and Hampton slowly fading into obscurity. He might not even make it through training camp. 

 

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