23-0 is not even the biggest halftime deficit that the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced this year. That would be the 31-3 score that they faced just a couple of weeks ago at the hands of the mighty Cincinnati Bengals, who have beaten them three consecutive times, for the first time since the 1980s.
But it’s been happening so frequently recently—really, for long stretches of the season—that it’s becoming tiresome even for the players to make the same remarks every game in explaining what is going wrong—because it’s the same things.
“We’ve got to get off blocks. I say it every freaking week”, Cameron Heyward said early in his post-game press conference. “Our technique has to be a lot better. We have to know where we fit and everybody’s got to be accountable”. He said it was like Groundhog Day, reliving the same day over and over again.
Even the questions that he was asked were repetitive, leading to similar answers about what went wrong. “Stop spotting points. The first half was horrendous”, he said, in particular about the first half of the game. “Guys weren’t filling, we weren’t getting off blocks, we weren’t tackling. You name it, we did it wrong”.
“We didn’t make the necessary adjustments. We didn’t get off blocks. Not enough disruption, run or pass”.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The Steelers’ defense has had the same problems most weeks of the season this year. They are allowing nearly 25 points per game at this point, the 10th-worst in the NFL. They finished third in scoring defense just last year, and fifth the year before that. They haven’t finished in the bottom 10 in scoring since 1991, but that’s the direction they’re heading in.
Injuries have been a factor. They haven’t had Stephon Tuitt all year, and Tyson Alualu has been out nearly as long. Joe Haden has missed five games, and other key players have missed time as well. Depth has been an issue all year.
Just going back to that first half and seeing how Dalvin Cook and the Vikings’ running game just tore through the Steelers’ defense like a junior varsity team—as head coach Mike Tomlin called his team coming out of halftime—however, it’s just striking and makes you wonder how it ever gets better.
Truth be told, the only change I realistically see having much of an effect is an addition by subtraction move of getting Devin Bush off the field, who has been making far too many mistakes to make up for whatever athletic play he might occasionally make. And that may well be the direction in which we’re headed.