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Checkdown Audible: Headsets Not Issue In Loss To Pats From Steelers

Gronk-Patriots-vs-Steelers-2015

Checkdown Audible
There has been a ton of talk about the fact that Steelers coaching staff were getting a Patriots radio play-by-play in their headsets the past 14 hours or so.  Fans are raving that it’s another example of the Patriots cheating.  What will likely be deemed Headsetgate is nothing more than a distraction from reality: the Steelers beat themselves Thursday night.

Whether it was allowing Gronkowski to line up uncovered, linebacker Terence Garvin being forced to cover Chandler one-on-one, abysmal communication – the Steelers defense, especially the backfield, is nowhere near the level of competitiveness they should be right now.

They received a ton of extra attention during camps and the preseason, so there really is no excuse for a lack of communication or not playing their assigned positions unless coaches Keith Butler, Carnell Lake and Mike Tomlin didn’t teach.  Thursday night’s performance was an example of poor veteran leadership on the field and a lack of mental focus.

Watching Antwon Blake make arm-tackles made me want to rip the hair from my head.  These guys are supposed to be pros, not out there playing touch football.

Where were Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison?  As defensive vets, their individual performances were underwhelming.  I wanted to see them grab their teammates and yell, “Wake up, these are the champs we’re playing!” Instead, they just walked back to the huddle.  Leadership – we need it.

Watching Will Gay and Will Allen having to use hand signals to get other guys into the correct scheme seemed ridiculous.

Fans can bellyache all they want about the headsets.  It wouldn’t have mattered if Josh Groban was being blasted through the speakers.  What happened on the sideline has zero to do with how the Steelers performed on the field.  At some point this team is going to have to stop making excuses and “man up”.  How do you improve if you refuse to address the real issue?

And don’t think the offense and special teams are off the hook. Even if Scobee hadn’t missed those two field goals, the Steelers would have come up one point short of the win.  The offense put a nice game together – the stats show that.  The issues on offense centered on mismanagement of the play clock and a lack of urgency getting set.  Roethlisberger was on the right track when he went to the hurry-up offense, but had to signal the sidelines to not send in substitutions.  Shouldn’t the coaching staff be aware of that given the situation?

In the end, the Steelers have no one to blame outside of themselves.  I hate saying it.  Somewhere a fan is reading this thinking what a jerk I am for harping on the team.  It’s easy to point fingers at anything but the truth in this situation because the reality is so hard to swallow.

Pittsburgh has the personnel to play competitive football – some still doubt that is the case on defense – but the inability to maximize it.  Until some of the younger players and veterans pull together, they’ll struggle.  Time for tough love.

S. Dean is a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan. The former owner of 'The Beam in Pittsburgh', Dean has worked in the sports media field for several years. S. Dean graduated with a degree in physical therapy and sports medicine, has a minor in journalism and is a Mt. Lebanon, PA, native. His favorite Steelers players (all-time) are Jerome Bettis, Lynn Swann and Joey Porter. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLHotTopix and Google Plus. To see his full bio, please visit the Meet Our Staff page.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DrGeorge

    September 11, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Dean, for telling it like it is. I concur in your views. However, all in all, I thought this a pretty good first game. The Steelers played better than I expected and with more heart, especially on defense. I find that encouraging for the future.

    In truth, both teams committed first game errors. Both QBs missed open receivers, both defenses seemed vulnerable to the run, both secondaries need a lot of work. And for both teams, key players were missing due to injury or suspension who will return soon and make both teams much better than they were last night.

    Christina Rivers in the preceding article commended some of the fine individual efforts by Steelers in this game. The entire offense played well, especially the skill positions. Gilbert still struggles at times, but Villanueva is progressing nicely and may soon replace Gilbert at RT, a move that would solidify the O-line. The absence of Bell and Pouncey had no effect on the outcome of this game; their backups played well. And I liked the Nix-Johnson power tandem in the red zone. DeAngelo Williams and Will Johnson should both get carries even after Bell comes back. Ben R. still needs to throw the ball more quickly and accept what the defense gives him, but he is taking fewer sacks and threw no interceptions.

    However, the offense continues to put up stats between the 20s and then fizzles in the red zone. That was the primary difference in the game: the Patriots converted red zone opportunities into TDs, and we didn’t. As Ben R. said before the game, the offense must put up 30 points to win, and last night we came up 9 points short.

    On defense, the front seven is developing nicely. The CBs and Safeties played with spirit, but the lack of talent at those positions remains a problem, even though Will Allen is a big improvement over S. Thomas. Like LeBeau before him, Butler simply has no answer for that. We have no one on the roster who can match up with Gronkowski or Edelman one on one, but then, most teams don’t. Butler can try different schemes and personnel combinations to address the issue, but the ultimate solution lies with next year’s draft. Meanwhile, a better pass rush and possibly the development of Doran Grant might make this defense good enough this year to make the playoffs again.

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