If you’ve been following along closely over the last decade or so here at Steelers Depot, you know we’ve touched on communication issues defensively ad nauseam.
Despite many Steelers’ players and coaches stating that communication is important and steps have been taken to improve communication, those issues have reared its ugly head in recent years at the worst possible times.
Now, the Steelers enter the 2021 season without Vince Williams — who was one of the best communicators and leaders on the defense over the last five years or so — following his retirement. Add in the losses of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson at cornerback, and Bud Dupree at linebacker and it’s understandable to be a bit worried about communication on the defensive side of the football pre-snap.
Team captain and longtime veteran leader Cam Heyward stressed the importance of communication following a bit of a rough day of practice for the defense that resulted in a couple of splash plays from the offense as guys ran free through space against the top unit.
“You know, we’ve been together a lot longer and we have some newer parts, but for the most part, we have a lot of guys coming back,” Heyward said. “So, you know, we should be winning in these match-ups. We’re just trying to get better every day. We know we’re not at the finished product and we’re getting guys up to speed. But I think our communication’s got to get a lot better. A couple of times guys ran down free. That’s something that we got to stress now, so we can clean up before games start happening.”
At what point do the communication issues get cleaned up? This is an ongoing issue year after year with such a talented defense. Sure, familiar faces left in the offseason, but it’s not like it’s an entirely new system, or that the guys elevated into starting roles aren’t familiar with the play calls, terminology and overall scheme.
Heyward is right though that it’s better to have the communication issues happen in training camp or the preseason, rather than in games that actual count. It’s just incredibly frustrating to continue writing and hearing about communication issues with this defense though.