You’re going to be hearing from a lot of defensive players over the course of the next week talking about how much they sucked during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Cleveland Browns last night, and not without justification. The unit has a lot to be frustrated about regarding its own performance, even if there are plenty of issues on offense as well.
Defensive captain Cameron Heyward always takes losses hard, and he’s been handed two in one week now. Knowing that his unit needs to be the group carrying the team right now, he signaled his frustrations in his post-game comments.
“We lost the damn game. I do not know what else is more demoralizing than that”, he told reporters after the game, via team transcripts. “They ran the ball, we got our ass kicked. Simple as that”.
It was as simple as that, but one issue that’s a little more complicated is the amount of time the unit has been spending on the field since the beginning of the season. Albeit largely because of overtime, the defense played 100 snaps in the opener, and the Steelers have been in the hole in terms of time of possession for at least six minutes every game. Last night, it was more than 12 minutes-difference in time of possession.
But while the offenses’ five possessions of under two minutes played a big role in that, Heyward wasn’t looking to excuse his own group’s inability to get off the field, especially when they had chances. They allowed the Browns to convert on fourth down three times.
“That is our own fault. Three-and-outs, if you do that, you are on the sideline”, Heyward said when he was asked about the difficulty of the defense being on the field so much and for so long. “As a defense, we did not get off the field. They had an abnormal drive in the second half that they were able to sustain the clock”.
The Browns had three drives from the second quarter on that spanned at least six minutes (approximately; one was 5:57), with a long of over seven minutes. Across just four possessions beginning at the start of the second quarter, Cleveland controlled the ball for roughly 23 minutes, spanning to the 9:29 mark in the fourth quarter, the Steelers having possession for about 12 minutes in that same span of time.
While the offense not being able to stay on the field has been an issue since the start of the year, the defense struggling to get off of it has been as well, and it can no longer be ignored, or at least allowed to be overshadowed by other concerns.