When a team loses a game in completely uncharacteristic fashion, it is only obvious that there will be a backlash, and reactions will be fueled by emotion rather than logic. But is that what is happening on the heels of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 55-31 loss to the New England Patriots?
Excuses for why the Steelers took one of their worst losses in franchise history are flying, and everyone has a theory.
One such theory involves Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and his play last Sunday. Could people really be suggesting that Polamalu's play on Sunday is a sign that it's time for him to go? Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wasn't too kind in this tweet.
Steelers are discovering that Troy Polamalu is a liability in coverage. Three more penalties against him vs Patriots. Prob last year w team.— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) November 4, 2013
On the other hand, Mark Kaboly from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gives Polamalu a pass for what happened on Sunday.
Why didn't Tomlin pull Troy when he had "lack of execution" on Amendola TD? Why? Cause it's stupid to pull best players b/c of 1 bad play— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) November 5, 2013
All the fuss seems to revolve around a play early in the game when Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady.
Here we are just before the snap. Troy is lined up as a deep safety, something the Steelers haven't done a ton this year. He's essentially been an undersized linebacker for much of the season.
The coverage scheme appears to be somewhat convoluted from the beginning. Amendola is left uncovered at the line of scrimmage, which might have been mistake No. 1.
Safety Shamarko Thomas is lined up as a corner, while cornerback William Gay is 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, shading the outside. Logic tells me that Thomas is going to pick up the short receiver, and Gay will pull in on the deep receiver. This leaves Polamalu over the top.
However, at the snap, everything goes wrong. Both receivers go deep, while Thomas fails to trail Amendola. Not his assignment as it's drawn up, but there was no back headed to the flat and no tight end on that side who could have stayed short.
And Polamalu chooses to go from hash to hash working what appears to be a triple-team on wide receiver Julian Edelman. The problem is safety Ryan Clark and cornerback Ike Taylor do a respectable job bracketing Edelman, and him getting behind them never appeared to be in question.
Why does he do this? Because Brady made him.
At the snap, Brady locks onto Edelman with his eyes. This is also why I suspect Thomas peeled off of Amendola. It looked like Brady was going to try and drop it in between Clark and Taylor.
By the time Brady peels back to the other side, he has two receivers wide open, Polamalu in a spin in the middle of the field, and he has his choice of players to throw a touchdown to.
It was certainly a miscalculation on Polamalu's part. He bit hard on Brady's fake. He and half the Steelers defense. The difference being on this play, Polamalu was the one he picked on when it happened. Had Brady chosen to go to his outside receiver, Aaron Dobson, we are talking about Gay instead.
The bottom line is Polamalu has been the best defensive player on the team for much of this season. But asking him to do what he does, you make some assumptions. For every play like this that causes everyone to shake their heads, he makes five positive ones.
Do I think Polamalu has five more seasons in him? Not likely. However, I'm not ready to put one of the greatest players in franchise history out to pasture just yet.