Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Steelers Must Man-Up if They Are Ever Going to Beat Patriots

“Press/Man” might be the Kryptonite the Steelers have been seeking to finally deal with New England.

Embed from Getty Images

The anticipation is palpable here at St. Vincent College, but so, too, is reality.

And for the Steelers, reality looms in New England.

No matter how much optimism and excitement is generated by the preseason physicality of a “Backs-on-’Backers” drill or the precision and play-making of Ben Roethlisberger during a two-minute exercise.

“They out-coach and out-play people,” Roethlisberger acknowledged regarding New England.

The Patriots have been doing both for a long time now.

They’re the defending Super Bowl champions.

They’ve won two of the last three Super Bowls and five of the last 16 (twice additionally in that span the Patriots reached the Super Bowl but didn’t win it).

And they’ve already been anointed by USA Today as the team that’s about to go 16-0 in the regular season on the way to defeating the Packers in Super Bowl LII.

So what, if anything, can the Steelers do about that?

No. 1, make a point of not losing to inferior teams in the regular season, as has been the Steelers’ habit in recent seasons (Philadelphia last season, for example), in an effort to earn a bye and as many home games as possible in the postseason.

No. 2, find a way not to lose to New England on Dec. 17 at Heinz Field (the most problematic aspect of the Steelers’ four-pronged approach toward avoiding the inevitable, which is another playoff failure at Gillette Stadium).

No. 3, find a way to hand the ball off to someone other than DeAngelo Williams and to throw it to someone other than Cobi Hamilton in the AFC Championship Game (in other words, have Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant all healthy and available rather than injured and/or suspended).

And No. 4, get in the Patriots’ faces.

The Steelers have been working on No. 4 in particular since Organized Team Activities in the spring. It involves playing more press/man-to-man coverage in the secondary instead of continuing to hone the zone approach Tom Brady dissected last season.

The zones don’t work.

Blitzing Brady doesn’t work.

And getting pressure with a four-man rush can be effective, but it’s difficult to generate.

But if the Steelers can physically mess with New England’s smaller receivers, if they can line up directly across from them and then re-direct routes and disrupt timing just after the snap, they’ll have a chance (it’s worth trying since the Patriots’ receivers aren’t exactly the types that are going to run by people).

After all, Brady can’t throw every pass to Rob Gronkowski.

“Press/Man” might be the Kryptonite the Steelers have been seeking to finally deal with New England.

Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake wouldn’t go that far, but he’s not opposed in the least to having a different approach, a more aggressive approach, at the Steelers’ disposal this time.

“We need to evaluate our play in general defensively as a whole in regard to great teams like New England,” Lake said. “If ‘man’ is part of that formula going forward, then we better have worked on it from OTAs, really, until we play (the Patriots). I think that’s where we are.

“We’re negligent if we don’t keep developing tools to give us a chance and to be flexible enough to have different things available to us.”

Lake’s stated objective in training camp is to have that man-to-man capability in place, just in case.

The defensive backs, cornerback Artie Burns in particular, are honing their skills toward that end on a daily basis.

It’s not as exciting as “Backs-on-’Backers” or watching Roethlisberger run the two-minute offense.

But for the Steelers, it might ultimately prove defining.

“It just has to kind of be in the forefront of our overall scheme,” Lake said. “I don’t know what they’ll call. I don’t know what our (defensive) coordinator will call.

“But I want to have our guys ready for that if that comes to pass.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Mobile Service To Connect Hungry Pitt Students to Free Food

PittGrub app will send folks in need to events with leftovers.

What's It Like When You Go from Laborer to Being The Boss?

Pitt's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence has been teaching business strategies to startups and century-old companies for 25 years.

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Richard DeShantz steps it up with a move from Downtown to Lawrenceville and shows Pittsburgh how to make French dining fun.

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh's air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation. What steps are being taken to reduce Pittsburgh's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels?

Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Why our dining critic thinks dumplings might be his ultimate comfort food.

Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, of course, is best known for the pierogi. Our love of dumplings extends beyond that, however. These seven dumplings are our favorite restaurant versions of their various styles.

The Tailor's Dumpling: Kreplach

A Pittsburgh chef and his family continue to craft a family recipe with roots in Poland.

The Pittsburgh Region's Top Dentists 2018

Our annual list, which contains 376 dentists across 11 specialties, as determined by topDENTISTS.

A Weekend Mission of Mercy in Pittsburgh

More than a thousand people come to PPG Paints Arena once a year for free dental care, thanks to an ambitious, all-volunteer effort.

Jump Into the River: Open Waters Beckons Strong Swimmers

It takes a strong swimmer and the right timing to dive into the three rivers. for those up to it, the difference between the pool and open water is profound.

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.