Last week I was worried about the defense melting down in the fourth quarters of games…today I am worried about the second half of the season meltdown of the entire team. But in the spirit of consistency (ahem), I am sticking with the defense.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the New England Patriots 39-26. Tom Brady completed 30-of-43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Brady had no interceptions and seemingly had enough time in the pocket to admire his flowing locks and ponder the need (or not) for more manly grooming habits.
The Steelers defense accounted for ZERO sacks for the first time this season and only three quarterback…hits…brushes…love pats?
Brady spread the ball to eight different receivers with the rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski being the beneficiary of his largesse. Gronkowski came into the game as the Patriots second string tight end, having only 14 catches for the season.
Against the Steelers defense, Rob Gronkowski second string tight end did what no other tight end had accomplished against the Steelers in the first eight games. Having allowed other tight ends three passes in eight games, Gronkowski had three touchdowns of 19, nine and 25 yards.
Wes Walker, without the benefit of Randy Moss double teams, received the ball eight times for 89 yards. Tom Brady ran…shuffled….fell into a three-yard touchdown scramble with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Steelers came into the game allowing 240 yards a game but gave up a season high 453 yards to the Patriots. And that run defense that nobody runs against? BenJarvus Green-Ellis accounted for 87 of the Patriots 103 total rushing yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
So I ask again (and this time with more urgency) what is wrong with the Steelers defense? (At least we are not the Redskins, right?)
Well…the Steelers blitz heavy defensive scheme proved vulnerable to a patient spread style offense. The two deep zone the Steelers employed was exposed to short underneath passes, allowing the Patriots receivers to not only have free access to the ball but the defense was so far off that the receivers were allowed to gain yardage after the catch.
As Ryan Clark stated after the game, “They spread out and just took what we gave them.”
FINE! But why didn’t the Steelers defense adjust and stop giving? Is the defense so intricate that it is unable to make in-game adjustments? Are the Steelers so enamored with past accolades of the defense that it is not adjusting to teams? Have the Steelers remained stagnant while other teams have advanced?
PFFFT…the defense played up to expectations the first four games of the season, perhaps feeling they had to take up the slack for Roethlisberger’s absence.
Maybe the defense simply needs to be reminded they still are counted on to steady the team. Roethlisberger is good, but the Steelers defense is GREAT and it is time the defense returns itself to that state of greatness…whatever it takes.