When we think of hostile environments, it’s always about playing on the road. And that’s fine – it’s conventional wisdom. But even when the Pittsburgh Steelers can drive to work and play at home, it’s still hostile for one side of the ball. The other side. The defense.
It’s a point that often gets lost but one Mike Tomlin brought up in his usual Sunday sitdown with Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola.
“Our defense has been challenged all week to communicate in a hostile environment, because if it’s hostile for the opposing offense it’s also hostile for our defense, and the worst thing we could do is miscommunicate or blow assignments because we can’t communicate or function in the environment that we helped to create. So we have a lot of work going on relative to playing at Heinz Field because we’ve been on the road a lot to this point in the season,” Tomlin said.
Pittsburgh weathered the storm by playing on the road for most of the first half of the season and will get to enjoy Heinz the rest of the way. Four of their final six games will be at home including tonight’s tilt against the Green Bay Packers.
It’ll be loud which is problematic for the Packers’ offense. But it’s the same issue for the Steelers’ defense. And poor communication has been a problem for arguably a month defensively and one reason why they have allowed so many chunk plays.
A defense has to communicate just like an offense. Sometimes, it’s even harder. There’s less time, they’re reacting to what the offense does, and there’s more space, players scattered all over the field.
A broad look at the numbers suggests the Steelers have one of the league’s best pass defenses. And in pockets, they have looked as good as the data suggests while picking up the number of splash plays, one element Tomlin has challenged them to do. But Steelers’ fans know the cracks in the armor, ones the Packers will look to exploit tonight.