The Pittsburgh Steelers went into this season understanding that the defense was going to have to shoulder much of the load, which is far from abnormal when they have had their greatest successes. With the offense having such a difficult time possessing the ball, however, and now with injuries mounting, the defense has looked gassed.
In all, the Steelers allowed the Las Vegas Raiders to put up 425 yards of offense, including 373 net passing yards, and 26 points, after holding the Buffalo Bills on the road to 16 points (Buffalo scored 35 points today, mind you).
“I don’t know what I attribute it to. We just didn’t step up in those moments”, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said after the game on the defense’s inability to stop Las Vegas’ offense in key moments late in the game.
“That’s the game of football. One team makes the plays, another team doesn’t”, he continued. “I’m not gonna day London Bridge is falling down, but we’ve got to grow from this. We’ve got to continue to keep harping on our mistakes and understanding how big those plays are, because situational football is where the game is won”.
As mentioned, the offense looked gassed in particular at the end of the game. The Raiders were nearly able to close out the game with a seven-play drive that took up a minute and a half, culminating in a field goal that pushed the score differential to two possessions.
The defense was getting gashed, even on the ground, finding more consistently that defenders were being dragged for extra yardage. Whether it was a lack of a rotation due to injuries, deflation for a variety of reasons, or a combination of factors, they were unable to come up with the plays they needed to in the critical moments.
It didn’t help that T.J. Watt exited the game with a groin injury. Devin Bush and Joe Haden didn’t even play due to groin injuries of their own that they suffered in practice last week. With Stephon Tuitt already out, they were missing three of their four or five most important players in the front seven.
Not that that would, or should, be accepted as an excuse. Anybody who is on the field needs to be expected to make the necessary plays, and they did not do that. The only time late in the game in which the defense stepped up was when head coach Mike Tomlin decided to punt on 4th and 1.
Other than that, Las Vegas had themselves a good game. They had six drives that spanned at least three minutes, including five that accumulated more than 45 yards. They also scored on six of 10 possessions, and usually, they did not start with good field position.