Lessons learned from melt­down

DE Hey­ward: “There is room for im­prove­ment”

Baltimore Sun - - NFL & RAVENS - By Will Graves

PITTS­BURGH — Every week a mem­ber of the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers sup­port staff lines the hall­way lead­ing to the team’s locker room with photos taken from the pre­vi­ous week’s game.

This week was no dif­fer­ent, even though the pick­ings were slim and in­cluded shots of punter Jordan Berry and backup line­backer An­thony Chickillo. Get­ting handed the fran­chise’s worst loss in 27 years — a 31-point melt­down against the Philadel­phia Ea­gles — has a way of lim­it­ing your op­tions.

Even 48 hours af­ter a three-hour re­al­ity check that put the brakes on his team’s promis­ing start, coach Mike Tom­lin was hardly in a mood to search for any sliver of a sil­ver lin­ing.

“We got our butts kicked,” Tom­lin said Tues­day.

The Steel­ers (2-1) barely laid a hand on Philadel­phia quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz and put on a dis­play of poor tack­ling that turned mod­est gains into big ones.

“We do it hard,” Tom­lin said. “We need to do it smarter than what we dis­played on Sun­day.”

Par­tic­u­larly with the Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) com­ing to Heinz Field this week­end. Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son is a pro­tege of Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and the se­ries of screens and mis­di­rec­tion passes Philadel­phia used so ef­fec­tively are just Ped­er­son’s own riff on the West Coast of­fense Reid’s teams have been us­ing for years.

Mak­ing Kansas City quar­ter­back Alex Smith un­com­fort­able would help, though the Steel­ers have not been able to cre­ate any sort of sus­tained pres­sure. They have just one sack through three games, last in the league.

“There is room for im­prove­ment all around,” de­fen­sive end Cam Hey­ward said. “Whether it’s pass rush, not tack­ling well, not ral­ly­ing to the screens bet­ter, not win­ning third downs.”

Or avoid­ing ma­jor penal­ties, such as the three 15yard flags the Steel­ers in­curred on de­fense against Philadel­phia, mis­cues that led di­rectly to Ea­gles scores.

“Be it a late hit, a rough­ing the passer or a face mask, you can’t give up15-yard penal­ties dur­ing the course of drive play,” Tom­lin said. “It just makes get­ting off ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.”

Tom­lin was hardly lay­ing blame strictly at the feet of his de­fense. He pointed the fin­ger at the coach­ing staff for a poor game plan poorly ex­e­cuted and an of­fense that was held to its low­est point to­tal in five years. Help will ar­rive on Sun­day when run­ning back Le’Veon Bell re­turns from a three-game sus­pen­sion.

“We’ll see how sharp he is phys­i­cally once we get him out on the prac­tice field and kind of go from there,” Tom­lin said. “But, rest as­sured you’re go­ing to see Le’Veon Bell, and prob­a­bly a lot of him on Sun­day.” Sun­day, 8:30 p.m. TV: Chs. 11, 4

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