Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s pre-game press conference earlier today was headlined by one phrase in particular: “if you can’t get a yard, you don’t deserve to win”. The Steelers offense had several opportunities in yesterday’s game in which they needed a yard or two and failed to get it, and for the first time all season, they didn’t get the win.
While there is a lot of minutiae that goes into what goes wrong in such situations—Tomlin cited the ‘popcorn’ theory this afternoon—one of the root causes of an inability to get that one yard that you need, at least when you put the ball on the ground, is a lack of physicality, or poorly-utilized physicality.
When asked earlier today if he felt that his team might be becoming too finesse-dependent, the head coach said, “I don’t know about in its nature, but in terms of quality of play, we haven’t been physical enough, particularly, in those significant moments that I mentioned”.
The thing is, of course, that there is no reason the Steelers should not be as physical as any of their opponents. Even though the physicality of training camp and regular season practice sessions has been curtailed significantly over the course of the past two Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, Pittsburgh walks the line of physicality as close as any other organization in the NFL.
“We’ve got a lot invested in that, not only in the short-term but over the course of this journey in the long term”, Tomlin said about working on the physical element of the game. “We carried our pads every day through the team development process. We worked in that area than probably most of the people that we compete against. We have to draw from that well as we continue to work to find that rhythm that’s required of us to have it look the way we desire for it to look”.
Defensively, at least, the Steelers remain one of the most physical teams in the NFL, and that certainly shows up in the passing game and in the number of tackles that they are able to generate behind the line of scrimmage.
There is, however, grounds to question their offensive physicality. They certainly don’t have the most physical offensive line in the league, and that applies especially to the tackle position. Guys like Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler have the capacity, but of course Pouncey hasn’t been out there the past two games, and they played a very good defensive front yesterday.