If anyone knows me, they know that on the yinzer spectrum I lean more towards being a homer. Not to say that I excuse every mistake and decision that the Steelers make, but I try to always stay positive and not let unfortunate circumstances cloud my judgment. That said, the Steelers passing defense needs to be fixed, fast.
We saw hints of problems in week 1 versus the Browns, fortunately, the rainy weather and the fact that they were facing quarterback Tyrod Taylor masked a lot of their issues. This week, however, the holes in this defense were clear as day. If you watched the Steelers versus the Chiefs, you know exactly what I'm talking about. 2nd-year phenom Patrick Mahomes came into Heinz Field and was 23/28 for 326 yards and 6 touchdowns - that's a near-perfect passer rating of 154.8.
Mahomes played a fantastic game, but what was infuriating was watching him repeatedly sling touchdowns to wide open players. Yes, some of his throws were tough, but what seemed like the majority of the touchdowns were the result of busted coverages and nearly wide open players. And they were also a handful of would-be touchdowns were Mahomes simply overthrew his wide-open receiver.
It was post-routes especially that destroyed this defense, the Steelers simply couldn't cover the middle of the field.
I'll use the Chiefs first touchdown for example. On the broadcast, it looked like wide receiver Chris Conley simply toasted Artie Burns for a 15-yard touchdown, but a closer look shows that Conley wasn't even Burns' main responsibility. It was the linebackers who should've dropped back and covered Conley. Of course, they misread the play and stayed shallow, allowed Conley to waltz right into the end zone. This was something we saw all game.
The Steelers continually had linebackers Vince Williams and Jon Bostic covering the middle of the field and often covering tight end Travis Kelce. To no surprise, that area of the field was consistently open and Kelce went on to catch 7 balls for 109 yards for 2 touchdowns. While I do place some of that blame on the linebackers, Steelers defensive coordinator Kieth Butler should've been wise enough to make the adjustment and put his players in a position to succeed.
A lot of things need to be fixed. I feel like every week people harp about the defense needing better communication, but it's a problem that continues to plague this team. If the Steelers want to win games this season, adjustments need to be made to this defense.
Looking forward to next week, the Steelers will be traveling to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.
In a vacuum, you'd probably be relieved that Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting in place for Jameis Winston. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been red hot during the first 2 weeks of the season, defeating both the Saints and the Eagles. Between these two games, he was 48/61 for 819 yards and 8 touchdowns. Keep in mind also, these performances came against playoff-caliber defenses. Based on what we've seen, Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of carving up the Steelers secondary if he continues this level of play.
The Steelers should be thankful their offense showed up today despite a slow start; they're the reason this game was as close as it was. Sure Ben Roethlisberger is capable of spectaculor performances like we saw today, but our offense cannot be a crutch for this piss-poor defense week after week.
I'm not one to say the sky is falling in Pittsburgh, but it would be naive to say that the Steelers can be a legitimate Super Bowl contender if their defense doesn't improve. Yes, with a healthy Joe Haden today might have been different, but we can't let the absence of individual players derail our defense. Not Haden, not Ryan Shazier.
Here's to hoping that Kieth Butler and the entire defense learns from what happened today. Things can only go up from here.