So the Pittsburgh Steelers were pretty terrible the other night, huh? Well, the defense anyway. They let those dirty Cowboys put up 35 points at Heinz Field, and that is simply unacceptable. The team obviously thinks so, considering that the locker room is full of players who are disgusted with their performance. And that is a start.
When a team gives up 35 points on defense without any turnovers and not a lot of short fields to work from, then it is pretty common to be able to find a number of players who had an overall bad game. The Steelers had plenty of candidates for that category, but Pro Football Focus set their sights on one in particular who usually doesn’t find himself in the spotlight negatively very often.
The site has a weekly column that features a list of the 10 players from that Sunday’s slate of games whom they believe turned in the worst performances of the week. And this week, defensive captain and defensive end stalwart Cameron Heyward made the list.
Author Sam Monson writes that the sixth-year former first-round draft pick registered just a single hurry on 32 pass rushing attempts, which, with the way that they tend to grade pressure, is a significant statement. And they have written glowingly about Heyward in the past.
The number six worst player of the week had “a performance to forget”, according to Monson, in spite of the fact that “playing the Dallas offensive line was always going to be tough sledding”, noting that he even registered an offside penalty in the game, which is unlike him.
Monson writes that it was not just in the passing game that he struggled, either, saying, “against the run he simply wasn’t able to contend with the brute force of the Cowboys’ ground attack, and the combination of Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary in particular just routinely moved him off the ball”. It would also be worthy of mentioning that both linemen have been dealing with health issues, and that Leary is technically a backup.
This is not to say that Heyward deserves all the blame for what happened against the Cowboys, or even that I wholly endorse Pro Football Focus’ analysis of his performance. But I do think that it goes to show that if even a consistent presence like Heyward can struggle so much against Dallas’ offense, it just reinforces what a tall task they were going up against.
A tall task that they should have been able to emerge victorious from, mind you. After all, they held the lead with under half a minute to play. The defense failed to close the door, which has been an all too common occurrence.
The defense’s numbers in the fourth quarter have been particularly bad this season, and that has been true whether they were nursing a two-possession lead or looking to build back up from a two-possession deficit.