55 points

Good news! The Steelers offense wasn’t completely awful on Sunday. They had their moments, of course, turning the football over three more times and missing a couple of plays here and there, but they still managed to put 31 points on the board. Sure, it was against a mediocre New England offense that was missing three of its best defensive players, but 31 points is still 31 points and 31 points should be enough points to win an NFL game, yes?

Yes!

Unless your defense gets lit up to the tune of 610 yards and 55 points and sets new franchise records in defensive futility.

My goodness was that a mess. Tom Brady is one of the NFL’s all-time greats, and he has torched the Steelers before. Three of his 15 best passing days in terms of yardage have come against the Steelers. The only other team in the top-15 that appears more than once is the Buffalo Bills, a team that Brady gets to play against twice a year.

I sat in Heinz Field and watched him throw all over the Steelers defense in the 2004 AFC Championship game. The same thing in 2010 when a then-rookie Rob Gronkowski beat William Gay for three touchdowns. There was the Anthony Smith game in 2007. All of those Patriots teams were great offenses with big-time talent all over the field. Randy Moss. Wes Welker. Deion Branch. Aaron Hernandez (ugh). Gronkowski.

But this Patriots team. This Patriots team wasn’t supposed to be able to do this. They came into this game with a mediocre offense (not only by their standards, but by league standards). Brady was having the worst season of his career to this point. The wide receivers are nowhere near what they used to be.

Didn’t matter. Guys were running free through the secondary all day long. Brady couldn’t miss. The Steelers couldn’t get to him. They couldn’t stop the run. It was a complete massacre.

And that’s with the Steelers finding a way to claw back into the game and tie it at 24 midway through the third quarter. And they still ended up losing by 24 points.

I’ve written about the defenses problems before. They don’t force turnovers. They no longer have any sort of pass rush that strikes fear into opposing quarterbacks. They’re nowhere near as dominant against the run. All of that was clear today. This team doesn’t just stink because the offense stinks, it stinks because the defense stinks, too. And the defense might even be worse than the offense, if you can believe it.

Cam Heyward was the only player on the defense that seemed even somewhat competent on Sunday, continuing his recent resurgence from disappointing first-round pick to possible fixture on the defensive line.

Everybody else?

Like the offense, it’s mostly a matter of talent.

The guys that have it appear to be finished (Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Brett Kiesel). The rest? It just doesn’t seem to exist. It’s too soon to call Jarvis Jones a bust — and I’m not going to do that — but the first eight games of his NFL career have been underwhelming at best, and terrible at worst. What’s especially frustrating about that is that he came from a 3-4 defense in college and isn’t learning a new position. At the very least you would think there would be some sort of a pass rushing threat off of the edge, but there’s been nothing. The running game and pass coverage are even worse. Jason Worilds is a better player at this point, and it’s not even close. And that’s bad, because Jason Worilds is nothing special.

When the offense has been good enough to win this season, the defense has been lousy. When the defense has been good enough to win, the offense has been lousy. That’s what a bad football team does, and make no mistake, this is one bad football team.

Pittsburgh football fans haven’t seen a team like this in a long time. Since 1989 they’ve won fewer than seven games in a season just two times, and have never won fewer than six games over that stretch.

I’m not sure this team has four more wins on the schedule.

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  • Eric

    You guys are so pessimistic! You don’t even mention that the Steelers have the strength of schedule edge of the Falcons, Giants and Texans. That puts us at the 4th overall pick!

  • Rob D

    Historic loss. Lebeau and crew were utterly humiliated. AND they quit on D. First time since the 80`s I have thought a STeelers D was literally mailing it in..they quit on each other and their coaches..and the team and organization. There has to be real consequences for this.. You can say they lack talent..and I would agree. You can say they have a lot of young guys who aren’t ready for even competence, let alone starring roles and that the fading vets like Ryan Clark should have been benched already..and I would agree with those sentiments too. But there is no excuse for quitting..even if Lebeau seems to have thought his “scheme that never, EVER worked against Brady” would somehow work this time. This despite his win over Brady in Heinz where he seemed to see the light.

    Awww..well..its only a game and we are now spiralling down to the dregs of the NFL. Things have to get better because they can’t get any worse. Watershed game where all is revealed. This is a horrid team and it’s everyone’s fault. But I’m not wasting any more time on them. Tape the games and watch them later. I have work to do..it will be nice to use the time normally allotted to this unhealthy obsession on my music collection, family, sporting pursuits and the like..It’s actually pretty freeing. Wake me up for the draft..and I’ll follow the Lounge in any case…it’s a great resource.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan
    • Terribletoweler

      I watched Bubby Brister growing up and made it. It will only make them stronger!

  • Cols714

    Well they really need to clean house this offseason. What a mess.

  • Randy Steele

    Jones a bust? Maybe he’s just out of position. I always thought Jarvis Jones (just like Lawrence Timmons) was too small to play OLB in the NFL. He’s getting blown away at the point of attack. Maybe LeBeau should try moving him inside and see how he fares.

    But if you want to focus on one single problem with this defense, I think it starts at the nose tackle. Steve McClendon gets good penetration, but he has been getting pushed around too much to be the kind of stout anchor a 3-4 defense absolutely needs to function properly. Everyone talks about how much this defense misses Larry Foote. I think the player it may miss more is Casey Hampton.

    • Cols714

      Yep. Definitely. I think the defense really struggled before Joel Steed arrived as well back in the day.

  • Sarah

    Guys – some questions:

    1) Troy seems suddenly a complete liability…even tho finally healthy….but
    also seems to be moved much more forward towards LOS often. Is this to help make
    up for deficiency on run-D? Has it impacted his ability in coverage (I would
    assume YES)….thoughts?

    2) I guess it is Clark now calling out coverages/plays on D? Who was it last
    year? Pottsie? How much of an impact does that have? I would assume A LOT if
    there is confusion on coverages/assignments, which seems to happen often. Is
    this somewhat on Clark/the defensive play-caller?? Or on LeBeau? Is it one of
    those things you don’t notice until it goes horribly wrong?

    Just mulling!! All thoughts apprec’d!

    • Rob D

      Sarah, I think Troy is being asked by Lebeau to do too much. He’s lost that proverbial step but he’s not completely done like Ed Reed is now. If he played in a good secondary, he’d still be amazing. Trouble is, he’s playing in OURS..lol.IF we dump Clark, Keisel, Hood, Ike..we’d have to keep him. I still think he can be a valuable member of a revamped D,,just not at the All Star level he was at for years.

      Foote was the signal caller, then they used Vince for a few games (I think) even over Timmons. I think the fact that even Steeler fans aren’t exactly sure who is the signal caller (or who SHOULD be the SC) is emblematic of the kind of thing that hurts you over the course of a season. I’m wondering if the players watch a scheme that lets the best TE in the game (arguably, I’d still take the Sfran guy but…) get off the line of scrimmage clean every down when Cortez was on him like flies on…dirt….in our victory at Heinz…and think ..WTF? ..People say they’ve lost faith in Tomlin..its possible the defensive players lost faith in Dick on Sunday. And I can’t blame them. What I can blame them is for giving up 28 pts in the 4th.

      • Sarah

        Thanks Rob very helpful.
        I guess the D has that look of everybody trying to do too much.
        Which is always a disaster….but I never thought Troy could look this bad….this fast….

        And I’ve always wondered how much the on-field play calling affects things. Seems a disaster with Clark….if indeed that is who it is….

        Sigh….

  • Cols714

    Well, Jones looks awful. Vince Williams looks awful. McClendon does some nice stuff but he’s no Hampton or Steed. Troy looked awful. Clark looks done. Heyward looked good. Worilds looked good. Keisel looks done.

    On offense they looked better once Ben went no-huddle.

    • Terribletoweler

      Fewer bubble screens when Ben calls plays. I remember asking for some screens to protect Ben when Arians was OC. I take it back–I will be more careful what I wish for this time around.

    • Rob D

      There’s no doubt we need to totally tear down that D..revamp it completely. I’d love to do what Seattle did but they aren’t paying a fortune for an elite QB like we are. I really think Lebeau is going to retire so perhaps Butler gets his shot. For me the trouble is mainly two things…McClendon at NT is a failure..we can’t have anyting but a superior run stuffer there..the middle is open on a lot of runs and teams have no fear of attacking there. Steve might make an adequate to very good DE. He’s a big man with good feet but he’s not the anchor we need. Secondly, we need to figure out the LBers. Woodley is having an OK year but he’s been paid like he’s an LT or a James Harrison in his prime. He’s not, iMO..so they have to decide if he’s the answer. JJ looks small and not all that fast. but so many people love the guy and it’s so dang early. I just hope he can break out next year in a big way. Troy needs to agree to a trade and it has to be for a high 2nd mininum. If not, we have few options..he’s still a good player but he’s lost a step, he gambles because, I believe, he feels he has to contribute more than normal. Clark is done but I think he’s trying to cover for others too. Shamarko looks too small..he’s an aggressive player but the WR’s and TE’s are getting HUGE in this day and age. Take a look at Seattle’s secondary and see the future. Big guys..

  • djanyreason

    Jarvis Jones is a rookie in LeBeau’s defense. Given how well rookies have done in this defense historically (not well at all), I think we can excuse some of his play.

    The FO crew seem to think the DBs aren’t really the problem, the pass rush is. Yes, there were more than a few blown coverages on Sunday, but, as they pointed out in audibles, if your pass rush will never get there your DBs can’t cover forever.

    And, more specifically, I don’t think Ike had a bad game at all. It was below his usual standards, but that’s because his usual standards are so high to begin with (even at this point in his career).

  • tequila0341

    The Jets D gave up 49 points two weeks ago to Andy Dalton. The KC Chiefs D just gave surrendered 241 yards rushing at a 6.3 ypc clip.

    So what’s good defense anymore? Yes, we are a really bad team. But I’m going to hold off on suggesting Dick Lebeau needs to go because of one terrible blowout.