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‘Possession Down Football’ Has Been Defense’s Achilles Heel, Says Tomlin

On Tuesday, HC Mike Tomlin spoke to the media in his weekly press conference where he talked about the events of Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets at home and previewed the team’s upcoming Week 5 matchup on the road against the Buffalo Bills.

When asked if there I one particular area where the defense has been letting the team down in terms of getting off the field and getting the ball back to the offense over the last few weeks, Tomlin was quick to point to the most vital moments of the game where the defense needs to step up their play to escape the game with victory rather than falling in defeat.

“Possession down football,” Tomlin said to the media Tuesday, which aired live from the team’s YouTube channel. “I really felt it, but I felt it throughout, but particularly in the fourth quarter of that game. We were challenged there with some of the things schematically we were able to do and the collection of guys that we had on the grass. It didn’t feel comfortable. We got to get better at painting our barn red if we’ve got red paint based on the people that we have available to us in those moments.”

Tomlin mentioned that the personnel on the defensive side of the football didn’t provide him much confidence at the end of the Jets game, but that isn’t a good excuse for Pittsburgh blowing a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter for the first time since 2012. New York engineered back-to-back TD drives of 81 and 65 yards, respectively in the fourth quarter, moving the ball efficiently against Pittsburgh’s defense, who didn’t put up much of a fight back in the waning moments of the game.

This has become a concerning trend for Pittsburgh the last few weeks after failing to get off the field on third down against the New England Patriots, as they ran the clock out in the fourth quarter in Week 2 and the following week at Cleveland where Pittsburgh had the lead at the half, but could not stop the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the second half, who helped Cleveland score ten straight points to start the second half as the offense sputtered down the stretch, leading to another loss.

Granted, the offense hasn’t done the defense much favors to this point, but Pittsburgh did hold a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter against the Jets that the defense couldn’t hold. The personnel wasn’t great at the end of the game, as notable players like DeMarvin Leal who contributed early in the game weren’t out there for New York’s long TD drives, pointing to adjustments that the defense may need to make prior to Week 5’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills.

Regardless, the area of strength for this team was supposed to be the defense this season, and they haven’t lived up to the billing thus far. There is plenty of season left, but while Watt is still sidelined, it may be difficult seeing this unit get noticeably better on possession downs until the reigning DPOY returns.

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