What the Steelers defense worked to fix before MNF

Tomlin, leaders discuss improvements before hosting Browns
Christian McCaffrey running vs. Steelers
Photo credit Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Mike Tomlin said it well on Tuesday last week was a stinker, they stunk up the joint. While he was discussing everything, it definitely applies to the defense. What have they done this week to fix it?

The second-highest paid defense in the NFL allowed
·     30 points
·     a seventh-round quarterback to a 111.3 QB rating with a pair of touchdowns
·     188 yards rushing including a splash rushing play
·     Brandon Aiyuk caught eight balls on eight targets for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was tackling,” said first-year Steelers linebacker Kwon Alexander. “We need to tackle better. I know we can tackle way better. We know what we are now and what we can be.”

He’s a newcomer joining the team in late July and led the Steelers with eight tackles against San Francisco. He said there is nothing crazy about finishing tackles. It’s about focus, just doing it. Alexander said a number of players were staying after practice to work on it.

“We looked at the film, broke it down and saw what we needed to get better at,” said linebacker Elandon Roberts. “I feel like this week in practice has been a big focus on it and we are stringing things together.”

Sure, tackling was an issue, but that almost seems too simplistic that they need to just tackle better. It’s because it wasn’t just tackling, there were some times when the team wasn’t all on the same page and now they will be without their captain, Cam Heyward, for two months.

“We had some holes in communication last game,” said Steelers corner Patrick Peterson. “49ers do a lot of eye candy to dress plays up, we had to make sure we were on the same page at all times. There were times in that game where some guys got out of their gaps or guys not honing in on their assignments. Little things here and there that turn into big problems. We hope we fixed them this week so they don’t continue.”

“We didn’t do a good enough job to put ourselves in a position to win.”

“I thought communication was not up to snuff,” Tomlin said confirming his veteran corner’s assessment. “Our pre-snap movements and adjustments, we're not sure enough, we're not solid enough. We look like a group that was in a loud environment for the first time or like we had some new people. And so that's coaching as well.”

“Obviously didn't do a good enough job either way, me coaching them, getting them in the right spots, those guys playing,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. It just snowballed and we did not do a great job, and those guys did a better job than we did last week.”

“The great challenge and great thing about the NFL is you get another week to do it, and I think our guys will respond to that challenge, and our guys will be up for it this week.”

“Obviously, you want it fixed quickly,” Roberts said. “It’s just details, dialing in on your job. At the same time when you get in the mix, trying not to do too much. This week has been good for us trying to get back on track. We have a great, division opponent coming in Monday night, we feel good.”

“There’s not a locker room-wide panic,” said linebacker TJ Watt. “We are not acting different. I’m not going to try to be someone that I’m not. It just takes everybody putting their hand in the pile and continuing to work. Have the young guys with the next-guy mentality step up and I feel like we are going to do a good job at it.”

“Just the players that we got,” Alexander said. “We are holding everyone accountable. We are going to hit it hard and get it going.”

“There is always a sense of urgency, it’s the NFL,” Watt said. “We only have 17 opportunities and one opportunity is gone. This is a divisional game. We understand the history in this division. It’s definitely an important game.”

Tackling and communication, it’s easy to say it will improve. Late Monday night against Mr. Chubb and the Browns we’ll know if it did.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports