I watched every second of Sunday’s game and yes, I witnessed the Seahawks defenders using a hands-on approach in covering Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. Even though there technically should have been some penalty flags flying, the officials let the receivers and defensive backs fight it out. Scrappy football can be fun to watch. What was not fun was watching Antwon Blake not use his hands at all. In fact, there was one particular play where Blake simply threw his body at a Seattle receiver, his hands at his sides. Yes, Ross Cockrell (pictured above) got his hands into the action, but unfortunately he and his fellow defensive backs were caught out of position and picked apart.
I am not blaming the loss on their play alone. It was clear that the front office, Tomlin, Colbert and every coach involved in decision-making regarding the personnel they had for the back end of their defense was satisfactory – to them. Unfortunately, they are likely to stick with that opinion. “That was a hard-fought game. It was two teams fighting tooth and nail,” said Tomlin after the game. “We gave them some big plays on defense…but you can’t question the effort.”
Cam Heyward didn’t feel the same way. “We’ve got to put a lot on us…but five touchdowns and 100 yards rushing is unacceptable,” Heyward said post-game. “There were so many times we had (Seattle) on third and long and we didn’t capitalize. We kept them on the field. That’s disheartening because it means that we were doing our job on first and second [downs], and not getting off of the critical down.” When he was asked about the long touchdown on a play where the Steelers had the Seahawks backed up on a long third down, Heyward said, “That’s in our favor, and there is no way we should be letting them score on those plays or convert on those plays, as well.”
The thing is this: Heyward really has very little to apologize for. Yes, the defensive front seven could have pressured Wilson more, they could have shut down the run completely and they could have dropped into the seam for coverage. The problem was that the Steelers defense has been ill-prepared all season long because the responsibility has been passed around instead of truly addressed. It’s difficult for a defensive lineman to see what’s behind him – he has to count on his teammates to do their job down the field. That isn’t happening. And it isn’t happening because there was little to no concern before the season from Steelers leadership about an obvious deficit in player talent and ability to prevent long passes and big scores.
When asked about Doug Baldwin’s 80-yard touchdown reception, linebacker Jarvis Jones proved my point by saying, “I didn’t even see that play – I was on the rush. I had my back turned to it. I heard the roar from the crowd, so by the time I turned around he was down by the end zone.”
Safety Mike Mitchell said, “The biggest thing that stood out was the big plays, and that’s on us a whole. We can’t give up big plays because it turns a day where we are feeling like we are having success into a disaster.”
Why the media even asked Blake questions is beyond me. Blake said that Baldwin’s 80-yard touchdown was due to the Seahawks running a “good concept to beat the coverage” the Steelers were in. True. When you can’t cover receivers, you’re going to get beat time and time again.
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