Perhaps the Steelers secondary misses strong safety Troy Polamalu communication skills on the field just as much as ability to make plays. Without a doubt the absence of Polamalu has made a difference in some wins and losses, but should one player have that kind of effect? The answer is no. What is happening on the field right now in the Steelers secondary is miscommunication and missed assignments.
How do we know there is miscommunication? Plain and simple the players have told us. Most recently was Ryan Munday, who after the Sunday loss to the Raiders said, “Miscommunication … we just weren\’t on the same page as a secondary,” Mundy explained. “It was kind of like a scramble situation. We had a little miscommunication, a little frenzy in the secondary. It was a little hectic back there.” Before that its was Tyrone Carter following the Chiefs game said, “We didn\’t play the call right. Guys didn\’t have the call. It\’s our fault. In a crucial situation, we all should have communicated and made sure everybody had the call. We did a poor job of that.”
Those 2 instances are only 2 of recent weeks that we know of. How many do we not know about. Does defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau need to go to a giant flash card system? Perhaps at home games, he could have the defensive play call broadcast over the PA system. At least in 8 games they would have the right calls.
Head coach Mike Tomlin needs to shoulder a great deal of the load with what is going on in the secondary, especially late in games. Tomlin spent five seasons as the Buccaneers secondary coach before leaving to become the Vikings\’ defensive coordinator for one season. Tomlin should be able to instantly recognize and coach out the missed assignments, it is his specialty. Also his Cover-2 defense has not been working well with the current personnel sans Polamalu. The Cover-2 defense normally prevents big plays from happening, not fostering them to happen.
The cornerbacks play in this years fourth quarter colapses is easy to spot, but I assure you it does not stop there. The free safety play of Ryan Clark has been average at best this year and only above average when Polamalu has been in the lineup. Tyrone Carter and Ryan Mundy have been no better. Carter is more of a free safety thrust into the shoes of Polamalu. The shoes are just too big to fit, especially in this defensive scheme that revolves around the recognization and improvisation of the strong safety, or in this case Polamalu. Mundy was in for Carter on the final drive and fared no better with his recklessness.
As far as Ike Taylor and William Gay go, heading into the Sunday game versus the Raiders, quarterbacks have targeted Taylor a total 90 times this season and he has given up a league-high 54 catches for 679 yards and two touchdowns, while only breaking up 11 of those pass attempts. That equals out to a 60 percent completion ratio. He is the most targeted corner in the NFL right now and the numbers tacked on in the Raiders will without a doubt keep him there. Gay has been playing too far off the men he should be covering as well. He gives up a ton of 7 and 11 yard catches and is slow out of his breaks.
The most glaring deficiency the secondary has is the inability to catch a football. The Steelers cornerbacks still do not have an interception this season and rookie Joe Burnett is the latest to have a ball thrown to him in the wrong place, his hands. The defensive backs need to work after practice with the Jugs machine.
With 6 losses now and Polamalu not expected to return until the Packers game, it may be too late to fix any of this. These are not problems though that just surfaced, they have been there all season long and are magnified more with Polamalu out of the lineup. The 2010 preparation may start for the Steelers in just 4 short weeks, if that is the case, they need to start with the corner and safety position. Hopefully looking at drafting some kids who are communication majors!