Lessons learned from meltdown
DE Heyward: “There is room for improvement”
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