After Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt left Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury just three plays into the contest it looked initially like the team’s front line wouldn’t be able to overcome his loss and especially when it came to stopping the run. In fact, while the Bengals only had 68 yards rushing in the first half, 9 of their 19 rushes that took place after Tuitt left the game injured resulted in successful plays. While three of those 19 runs weren’t successful down on the Steelers one-yard line, the fourth one was as quarterback Andy Dalton scored on a sneak on fourth down.
The second half was a completely different story, however, as defensive linemen Javon Hargrave, Ricardo Mathews, L.T. Walton and Daniel McCullers all played extremely well against the run. In fact, the Bengals only rushed for a total of 8 yards in the second half on seven total attempts. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about the second half play of his defensive line.
“The guys that had to step-up, adjusted, and more than anything else, I sensed that,” Tomlin said. “When Tuitt went down and then Ricardo went down soon thereafter, we had some younger guys, some backup guys, some roll guys, guys like L.T. Walton and Javon [Hargrave] and Daniel McCullers had to step up. To their credit, they adjusted to the midstream change of roles and adjusted nicely and delivered quality play for us, particularly as the game unfolded.”
While Tomlin didn’t talk specifically about any of the adjustments that were made on defense at halftime, he did talk extensively about the adjustment process during games.
Largely, you never wait exclusively to halftime to deal with any potential adjustments, Tomlin said. “You do that every time a unit comes off the field and sometimes you acknowledge more in-depth detail or discussions, or adjustments, will be done at that significant period of time.
“So, the adjustments are continuous, but you also acknowledge in the midst of adjusting in game that hey, we’ll table this discussion at halftime, for example, more time required, or we’ll draw it up, or talk about it at the half and that’s generally the protocol that we follow. We make continual adjustments during the course of the game with units as they come off the field. Sometimes those adjustments, or discussions, require or acknowledge, further discussion at the half.”
It’s yet to be seen whether or not Tuitt will be able to play Sunday in the Steelers home game against the Baltimore Ravens as he’s currently dealing with a right knee sprain. Should he ultimately be unable to play, at least Hargrave, Mathews, Walton and McCullers all received extensive playing time this past Sunday without Tuitt being on the field. In the process, they proved they could overcome some adversity by making a few much-needed adjustments.