The Pittsburgh Steelers still have plenty of issues to reckon with during their four-game winning streak, on both sides of the ball. One of the frustrations has been the defense struggling to close out games in the second half—not just at the end of the half, but to start off.
Most notable was the Seattle Seahawks game just before the bye week, who stormed back into the game after trailing by double digits at halftime, the Steelers looking entirely unequipped, suddenly, to slow down their running game—with a backup running back and a backup quarterback.
Even as recently as Monday night, however, the issues remain. The Chicago Bears, who had just three points at halftime, scored on their first two drives of the second, including a 104-yard (yes, you read that right) drive on their lone third-quarter possession that started at their own seven and ended at the Steelers’ four before they had to settle for a field goal. They followed that up with a six-play, 82-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. So why does this keep happening? Have the coaches identified the issues that lead to this and how to correct them?
“If we did, we’d obviously try to halt it, because we don’t like it either”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said on Thursday, via the team’s media department. “We need to start out the second half better than we have. That’s the big thing for us. I think we’ve done a good job in terms of starting the game, but what we’ve got to do is, when we come back out, we’ve got to win the first couple of series and try to get the momentum on our side”.
The defense gave up 17 points in the second half against the Bears, seven out of 10 total on the opening drive of the third quarter the week before against the Cleveland Browns, 20 to the Seahawks, including 17 on their first three drives, and 13 (out of 19) on drives two and three of the second half against the Denver Broncos.
That’s during their winning streak. And all of these games ended up being close, often coming down to the final minutes, if not the final play, like the Denver game, which ended with a James Pierre interception on fourth and goal with an eight-point lead, after having already given up two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
The Green Bay Packers also scored on their first two possessions of the second half against the Steelers, 10 points in total, though they also scored on three straight drives to end the first half, 17 points. The Cincinnati Bengals opened the second half with a field goal drive and then a touchdown drive.
You’re seeing the pattern here. Halftime adjustments, and adjusting to their opponents’ halftime adjustments, are an issue. And it’s not the first time they’ve been an issue before, quite frankly. How can they put a lid on it before it bites them you know where?