Film Room: The Steelers Secondary Has Zero Ball Skills

Some statements that are inarguably true. Water is wet. The Pistachio commercial sucks. And the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary has zero ball skills.

This isn’t a revelation. We’ve known it all year long. It’s a group struggling to make a play on the football. Any play. A breakup, let alone an interception, would be a minor miracle. It cost them again in Sunday’s loss to Oakland. They were given plenty of chances to make plays. It never happened.

Tomlin admitted the obvious after the game.

“I think equally as frustrating is that we’re on some of these plays,” he said. “We’re there at the ball. We’re not making plays on the ball. Equally frustrating is we’re not making them and they are. It’s not like these balls are falling incomplete.”

Let’s take a look at some of the most notable failures.

This one is probably the least egregious of the ones you’ll see which tells you how low the bar is. Terrell Edmunds is matched up on Jared Cook in the slot. Cook brushes aside Edmunds’ press coverage, running through him and winning inside. Derek Carr hits him on a slant and it goes for a first down.

Too often Sunday, the Steelers allowed inside releases and let the Raiders work the middle of the field. All game long.

This completion down the seam to Derek Carrier. Again, free release to the inside. Despite Edmunds on the tight end’s hip and Sean Davis flying in over the top, the pass is threaded between them and goes for a long completion.

On replay, the ball did hit the ground, but Carr picked up the tempo to run the next play before the Steelers challenged. Oakland did ultimately turn the ball over on the drive.

Now it gets really ugly. Like Tomlin alluded to, Joe Haden has good positioning on this slant to Jordy Nelson. It’s hard to be in better position. But somehow, Haden misses knocking the ball out and Oakland moves the sticks on 3rd and 7. He did everything but finish the play.

They’d end the drive with a TD to Lee Smith.

And the worst example of the day. Morgan Burnett’s rough day capped off by this 39 yard completion to Seth Roberts on their game-winning drive. Like Haden, Burnett has good positioning. He just isn’t capable of finishing the play. He’s late getting his head around – he’s better off just playing the receiver the whole time – and laughably attempts to bat it away AFTER Roberts has already hauled it in.

Edmunds is coming over the top but doesn’t make an attempt to jar it out either. So it goes for a monster completion that sets up the game-winning score.

Finally, the Steelers had two great chances to come away with interceptions. Like so many times this season, they let it slip through their hands. I’m showing both in the same clip. Mike Hilton should’ve come down with this pick on 3rd down and didn’t, leading to an Oakland field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

In the second shot, Sean Davis had a tougher attempt at an INT, though maybe he made it more difficult by diving than trying to run through it. Miscommunication between QB and WR, as was the case here, should result in a turnover. Instead, it’s incomplete, and the Steelers are backed up after the punt.

Creating turnovers is a pipe dream right now. Right now, you can’t trust this group to make a play on the football. Even guys like Hilton and Haden, the two DBs with the best ball skills on this team, are struggling. It’s contagious like the plague.

And all the more evidence why this secondary has to be basically built from the ground up.


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