As we’ll do every week to get you ready for the upcoming game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. Our X Factor for tomorrow night’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
X Factor: Defensive Communication
Pretty obvious one given the injuries this team is dealing with. Keith Butler said it right. The two things that will kill you as a defense are missed tackles and miscommunication. Right now, Pittsburgh is facing the latter smack dab in their face.
“You’ll probably hear me say this 100 times, the two things that get you beat on defense are mental mistakes and missed tackles,” Butler told beat writers earlier in the week. “Mental mistakes means I dropped a coverage, or I’m not covering the guy or I’m not in the gap I’m supposed to be in the running game.”
Avery Williamson will be the Steelers’ signal caller this weekend against Buffalo. He wore the green dot replacing Robert Spillane last week so that role isn’t brand new. But the results weren’t pretty. Pittsburgh’s defense was in a constant state of pre-snap chaos in the second half, leading to what appeared to be a coverage bust on Logan Thomas’ touchdown and a couple of easy catches in the flat for RB JD McKissic. And I think that’s what Butler was referencing in his above comments.
Buffalo is an offense that’ll make you pay for your errors. Lot of talent across the board. Three weapons at receiver: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Gabriel Davis. TE Dawson Knox could be a headache, Pittsburgh hasn’t done a good job covering the position all season, while the backs are talented and Devin Singletary will hurt you in space. If you can’t communicate, you have to water down what you run as a defense and it makes you a more predictable unit.
The Bills have a very good OC in Brain Daboll who will take advantage of simplicity and with the holes and injuries in the roster, Pittsburgh might not have the sheer talent to win out. Talent has trumped scheme the past two seasons.
So Williamson needs to be a loud, clear communicator. Get the call and get it to others quickly. And other guys have to pick it up. Those around Williamson need to be good listeners and give verbal and non-verbal cues that they’ve received the call. Without that, you’ve lost the battle before the snap of the football. That could lead to a long night – and a second Steelers’ loss.