What We Learned
— Pittsburgh’s 20-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints was a frustrating loss from a number of standpoints as the Steelers left too many plays on the field and failed to execute in key situations.
It’s a game the Steelers feel they let slip from their hands but I wouldn’t look for this game to impact the Steelers in any negative way.
This is veteran group that will move on quickly from the loss and unlike like last year, they are more of a motivated group to get back to where they want to be.
“There’s no need to panic,” Hines Ward said after the loss. “We have a terrific football team. This is just one loss, and now we have to prepare for Cincinnati.”
Pass Defense A Concern Moving Forward
— Sometimes too much can be magnified following a loss but a concern for Steelers moving forward is clearly their pass defense.
After giving up 305 passing yards, the Steelers pass defense has fallen to 25th in the National Football League.
Reasons for concern is this was the second straight week a quarterback appeared to figure things out in the second half.
The Saints also made a number of big plays on third down, converting 6 of 9 third downs in the second half.
Among the big plays included a 50 yard passing play between Brees and Robert Meachem on a 3rd and 5 from the Saints 24, mid-way through the 4th quarter.
The Steelers ability to give up big plays on third downs has been an issue dating back to last season.
The Steelers have to find a way to get better in that area, as great quarterbacks are going to exploit their pass defense, like Brees was able to do in the second half, after the Saints made the needed adjustments.
Failure to Finish Plays
— The Steelers offense couldn’t find any kind of a rhythm in the loss. “We just never got into any rhythm,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “This is definitely a gut check for us, ” Roethlisberger said in his post-game comments.
Should Steeler fans be concerned? I don’t think so….. Roethlisberger is going to rebound and I wouldn’t take much out of this game other than the Saints may have given the league a blueprint on how to attack the Steelers.
The Steelers are not an exceptional team on exploiting the blitz with quick screens and short passes, as some of their receivers no longer have the speed to make a quick hot read, which was evident Sunday night.
It was a great game plan by New Orleans and the Steelers offensive struggles reminded me of Pittsburgh’s early loss against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2008 season, when the Eagles came at Pittsburgh with the same kind of aggressive game plan and Pittsburgh had no answers for it.
Moving forward, what the Steelers offense has to improve on is finishing plays. They’re leaving too many touchdowns out there and that was even somewhat of an issue last year, despite the great offensive numbers they put up in 2009.
Buzz on the Steelers around the League
— Interesting observations coming from league observers. The consensus from those I’ve spoken with is that the cornerback play has been sound for the Steelers and the issue has been with their safety play.
One observer said the Steelers play from their safeties on defending the pass has been “average at best.” and even “mediocre” at times.
Troy Polamalu has looked a step slow all season to scouts and is not showing signs of covering the entire field like he could in the past. Maybe it’s just a slow start for Polamalu or maybe his age and knee injuries are starting to catch up to him somewhat.
Ryan Clark is regarded by those around the game as below average against the pass and his play has been poor at times this season.
The Steelers defense overall is an improved unit in 2010 but the pass defense hasn’t showed any signs of potentially being able to stop a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in a one game playoff matchup.
Ryan Clark is not going to improve his play too much and the Steelers success lies on the shoulders of Polamalu who is not having a pro bowl season.
Polamalu was critical of his play after Sunday’s loss and it will be interesting to see if he can get back to playing at the dominate level we are accustomed to seeing out of him.
— Mike Wallace is averaging 23.4 yards per reception but his route running on short-to-mid range routes is still a work in progress.
However, there were a few positive signs in Wallace’s play against the Saints.
New Orleans took away Wallace’s deep threat ability and what I liked from him was coming up with two tough grabs in the middle of the field, including a 21 yard third down reception.
Wallace though has not recorded more than 3 receptions in a game this season and he has to find a way to get involved in all areas of the passing game. He’s still making plays like a No. 3 receiver not a No. 1 or No. 2.
— Who does the coaching staff regard as their best linebacker? Chris Collinsworth said during NBC’s pregame show, Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler told him that Lawrence Timmons is the team’s best linebacker.