After getting blown out Sunday by the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have enough bad tape to keep them busy for the next couple of days. While the Steelers offense certainly didn’t do their part on Sunday, the defense managed to allow 34 points in addition to 426 total net yards.
There will be plenty of time to focus on what went wrong with the Steelers offense on Sunday so in this post I wanted to dedicate time to point out just how lousy their defense continues to be when it comes to giving up yards after the catch to running backs.
In the Steelers Sunday loss, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz threw for 301 yards and while that certainly looks impressive in the stat book, you should probably know that he only completed 4 passes during the game that flew more than 8 yards in the air past the original line of scrimmage.
Prior to Sunday’s game, I wrote and talked quite a bit about how the Steelers defense needed to focus more on controlling opposing running backs out of the backfield in the passing game and that came as a result of Cincinnati Bengals running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill both gashing them a week ago in that same matter. Against the Eagles on Sunday, the Steelers defense certainly didn’t improve any in that particular area as running backs Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews combined to catch 8 passes for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Sproles, by the way, had 114 yards after the catch on his 6 targets in the game and on five of those catches the pass flew less than 3 yards past the original line of scrimmage. On the 73-yard touchdown that Sproles scored in the game, he managed to shake himself loose from Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier after a nice scramble outside the pocket by Wentz. The Eagles quarterback lobbed the football down the field perfectly and 50 yards later Sproles was standing in the end zone.
After the game was over, head coach Mike Tomlin talked about how the Eagles constantly beat the Steelers defense by using screens.
“Their screen game was exceptional and I think he [Wentz] threw for 300 yards, but I’d imagine that 150 of it were screens to backs and tight ends and things like that,” Tomlin said. “It wasn’t the ball going over our head, or broken plays, but that’s a function of how they play. They did a nice job of it. We got to be better. When we get people behind the chains, we got to be better versus the screen game. That’s been consistent over the course of the first three weeks, so I tip my cap to them, but I acknowledge some areas that were showing a pattern of inconsistency, or a pattern of undesirable performance. We got to be better versus the screen game.”
In summation, of Wentz’s 23 completions against the Steelers on Sunday, 10 came on passes that never crossed the original line of scrimmage. In total, those 10 completions resulted in 89 yards gained as 115 yards were gained after those receptions.
We’ll see if Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler can fix this problem by next Sunday as you can bet the Kansas City Chiefs will be looking to use their running backs and tight ends in the screen game when the two teams meet at Heinz Field.