2021 South Side Questions: Do Steelers Have A Practice Problem?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: How do the Steelers practice, and is there really an issue with it?

It was a few weeks ago that Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane made what felt like little more than passing reference to the idea that the team needs to get better in practice. We have had several Steelers now talk about it in some shape or form following Sunday’s divisional embarrassment.

How much of it is just the natural impulse of what to say when you lose games in bad ways—and how much of it is it really based on shortcomings in the way that the team actually practices? To say that you need to practice better is boilerplate stuff after a loss, thinking along the lines of, if we did everything the way we ought to, then we wouldn’t have lost.

In the past, we’ve also gotten answers about how either coaches or players felt that they actually had a good week of practice, and you always feel good about the game plan heading into the game. Something obviously is not right, though.

And how much of that something is just a deficiency of talent? If both sides of the football are not very good, they can make each other look better in practice than they will against an outside opponent. That’s one of the ‘fears’ head coach Mike Tomlin brings up during training camp when he’s asked questions about how one side of the ball looked good on a given day.

Still, we’ve gotten a lot of comments already from players, and we’re bound to get a lot more over the course of the week, surely from coaches, too. It’s feeling like things are coming to a head. Things are either going to start changing, or they’re going to get really ugly.

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