A great defense finishes games, no matter the context. They close it out and preserve a lead to secure victory. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 35-6 lead or a 7-6 lead. If the defense is on the field, that scoreboard had better not change unless it’s to reflect a defensive touchdown being scored.
In that regard, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has failed three games in a row, even going back to an opener in which they created five takeaways and recorded seven sacks. The bottom line is they gave up what should have been the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of regulation, so even that one win did not reflect ‘good enough’. But there’s still time.
“We’ve got a lot of games left to play. A lot of ‘get better’ to do”, safety Terrell Edmunds told reporters on Friday via the team’s website. “And that’s our whole mindset with it. We’re in here today trying to watch the film, trying to figure out what we need to do to get better, and then just keep on going week to week and definitely take those steps in the right direction”.
The fact that Edmunds was in the locker room talking to reporters on Friday in and of itself was notable. They had just finished playing a Thursday night game in which they lost. Most teams after most short-week games take that time off. Edmunds’ phone went off during the interview, an alarm to remind him that it was time to get to a meeting.
But what did it mean that so many players were in the building on Friday? Was it communicating a message? “I wouldn’t say a message”, he said. “It just shows that we lost. It shows that we have stuff that we can get better on, stuff that we have to do to get better, and we have to watch the film to get better”.
Well, especially after the last two games, they still have plenty to improve upon, and that means plenty of tape to watch. There won’t be many players who aren’t getting shown up on head coach Mike Tomlin’s big screen this week as they go over the tape from the past two games, highlighting mistakes made.
Tomlin put it out there this offseason that he expected the defense to be great, and he defined greatness, in part, as doing whatever is required to win. Considering they’ve lost two, this defense certainly doesn’t fall under that definition of great.
And I doubt there’s a player in that locker room that believes their play has reflected that so far, even if they believe that the talent is there to put that product on the field. You’ve got to believe that in order to achieve it. But the potential has to start matching the reality. Whether it’s a message or not, it has to happen.