Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

Embed from Getty Images

Mike Tomlin didn’t have much of consequence to say, either in the immediate aftermath or a couple of days later, other than a well-intended vow to get to the bottom of Jaguars 45, Steelers 42, no matter how long it took.

“It’s important that we turn the stones over and gather information and really assess,” the Steelers head coach maintained on Tuesday afternoon.

“You do not want to be in a hurry to end it even though it can be uncomfortable and painful and so forth,” Tomlin added.

For the Steelers, the abrupt end to their season shy of the AFC Championship Game let alone short of the Super Bowl can’t be anything else.

But they need not over-think what went wrong.

The defense is the problem.

That was becoming apparent before the Jaguars found the end zone on half of their 10 possessions that didn’t end when a half did last Sunday.

By now it should be obvious.

The defense is the problem.

The season started trending in that disturbing direction when Ryan Shazier went down and stayed down on Dec. 4 in Cincinnati.

From that moment on, the Steelers became dangerously susceptible against the run, in either their base defense or in a defensive backs-heavy sub-package.

They worked around that complication for a while the only way they could, through sacks and interceptions, the type of splash plays that can allow a defense to compensate for yards surrendered.

But the Steelers ended up with zero turnovers generated and zero sacks amassed against Jacksonville.

And you saw what happened.

Everybody did.

The longer the Steelers played without the centerpiece of their defense, the worse their defense became and the more points they hemorrhaged.

And in the end the defensive line wasn’t what they thought it was, what they needed it to be.

Neither was the secondary.

Neither was outside linebacker.

Neither was inside linebacker, where, with Tyler Matakevich also injured, the Steelers had to sign Sean Spence off the street and also play Vince Williams and L.J. Fort on meaningful snaps they otherwise wouldn’t have.

In the end that wasn’t a problem, it was a fatal flaw.

The defense they’ve been painstakingly rebuilding for years suddenly has a gaping hole where Shazier used to be.

That’s the critical issue confronting the Steelers entering the offseason.

It’s the reason they’re much less of a contender now than they had every right to consider themselves as at this time a year ago.

And until that gets fixed, their other perceived issues pale in comparison.

That includes who the offensive coordinator is and whether or not Ben Roethlisberger likes/respects him, whether or not they have a QB sneak in the playbook, and whether or not the head coach, the free safety or the running back dare to publicly reference the Patriots in advance of a game against the Packers or the Jaguars.

The defense is the problem.

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

That’s a stone that ought to be relatively easy to identify if it hasn’t been already.

Turning it over will require as much heavy lifting as the Steelers can muster.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

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

The Latest

Pittsburghers - Do You Need a Digital Detox?

Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is now offering a package where guests must literally unplug from technology.

Mindful Brewing is a Friendly Neighborhood Spot (With Good Beer)

The South Hills brewery and restaurant is an above-average entry in the rapidly expanding list of local spots for in-house beer.

Munhall Native Auditions for American Idol

A rising Pittsburgh star vies for her chance at fame.

Lack of Empathy Leads to Uncivil Discourse

A panel discussion at Duquesne University focused on the tough task of teaching empathy in the digital age.

How Making Juice Changed Sharif Rasheed's Life

The owner of Safi Juice in Garfield left a job he hated to tap into something from his childhood.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in April

This month's lineup includes Rick Astley, Billy Price, Christopher Cross and Ronnie Milsap.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in April

Tour local social clubs with the Roaming Social Club; expect changes at AMC Waterfront

April: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in April

A look back at "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" as it turns 30, plus two literary events coming up in April.

Perspectives: ‘This Is Us’ Is a Story of Us

A former Pittsburgher finds more than a few similarities between his own life and that of the siblings on "This Is Us."

Spare Change: A New Way of Giving

A local group is using music and some spare change to help charities — and filming every step of the way.

Look How Mighty This Bellevue Garden Has Grown

Last season, the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden produced 4,862 pounds of food; the harvest was donated to three food pantries.

When and Where to Dump Your Junk (including old TVs)

A state environmental agency wants to help you recycle your hard-to-dispose-of household clutter.

Watch: Trailer of “Won't You Be My Neighbor”

The documentary about Mister Rogers' iconic show takes viewers beyond the cardigan collection and into “the heart of a creative genius.”

On a Lark: Pittsburgh Mom Creates Activewear for Babes

Unable to find cute, environmentally friendly gear for her newborn son, Lark Adventurewear founder Pallavi Golla launched her own line of moisture-wicking clothing for kids.