Was it playcalling? Was it execution? It depends on who you ask, but at least in one area, the Pittsburgh Steelers were putting the blame squarely on themselves, the players, and not on the coaches.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN wrote on Twitter that the Steelers “knew Tom Brady would be motioning WRs to diagnose the defense pre-snap, so they had counter calls ready to go”. Of course, they should have known this, since it’s what he always does.
Steelers knew Tom Brady would be motioning WRs to diagnose the defense pre-snap, so they had counter calls ready to go. They felt they were ready. That makes all the open Patriots receivers Sunday more frustrating to a defense that believes it’s better, faster. Failed to show it.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 10, 2019
“They felt they were ready”, he went on. “That makes all the open Patriots receivers Sunday more frustrating to a defense that believes it’s better, faster. Failed to show it”.
So if the Steelers had counter calls to make after the Patriots adjusted—and this is something that talked about, and which we wrote about, before the game as well—then what happened? Why didn’t they know which calls to make, or how to execute them? That’s the concern. Once the calls are made, it’s up to the plays to know how to execute the calls, and then to actually go out and execute them.
Said Mike Hilton, who was beaten down the seam for one of three Brady touchdown passes, “especially when they uptmpo-ed us, we kind of looked a little shook and kind of lost out there”, per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Talk about The More Things Change…
Mike Hilton referenced communication as an issue with the Steelers defense
“Especially when they uptempo-ed us, we kind of looked a little shook and kind of lost out there.”
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) September 9, 2019
The Steelers did, at times, have four players out there on the field who were new to the team this year, including two veterans, a rookie, and a first-year player, so that could certainly have contributed to the struggles in communication.
Either way, it’s not like there’s an excuse for the amount of miscues that the defense had in coverage and communication. Granted, it’s still very early in the year, and they went against arguably the lead desirable opening test imaginable, but the display was a very disappointing one.
In all, Brady completed 24 of 36 passed for a completion percentage of 66.7, throwing for 341 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 124.9. That includes connections on several deep passes, which is an area in which the defense improved last season.
The Steelers will have to show that they are capable of quacking turning around and responding with a strong performance against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. And part of that will be showing stronger communication skills than was on display in the opener.