2018 South Side Questions: Biggest Factor In Communication Issues?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are in a critical portion of the offseason in which the preseason takes center stage, where some of the biggest and most important questions get answered, especially in terms of personnel.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: What is the biggest factor in the Steelers’ communication issues on defense?

There are obvious, tangible, serious communication breakdowns on the Steelers’ defense this year, and there is no obvious answer about how to fix problems that should not exist in the first place. The defense was supposed to be simplified in order to allow for clearer communication.

Yet there they were on Sunday, one side of the field running one coverage and the other running another coverage. The convergence of different looks served cross purposes and helped lead to some of the Chiefs’ aerial successes on the day. Even the players in the past 48 hours have acknowledged that this was the case.

So why is this happening? It’s admittedly still early in the season, and perhaps there are some kinks left to be worked out, but the chain of command should not be so slipshod that it is a regular occurrence that fewer than all 11 defenders don’t know what the other 10 are doing on a given play.

Obviously, the play has to be called from the sidelines. Since we don’t get to hear the calls coming in, we can only guess about the timeliness and clarity of those calls from Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin. Chances are good that that is at least a part of the issue.

Another problem could be the new and shifting faces. You have two new starters, both of whom are either rotating or being subbed out, in Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett. On Sunday at least, you had Joe Haden out with Cameron Sutton and Coty Sensabaugh rotating at that spot.

It’s one thing for the defense to be beaten physically, but it’s another when they beat themselves because they can’t even get on the same page with one another. Everybody could be doing the job they think they’re supposed to be doing, but if they’re not working on the same project, you’re just going to build some ad hoc monstrosity.

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