Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said on Wednesday:
Sometimes, you can get caught up in just trying to play hard and aggressive, but you’re not trusting the defense. Not the other players, but the defense. And that can’t happen. The bottom line is that we have to make a play when we get a chance.
Wait…. what? You’re telling me that even your players now don’t trust the defensive system? It’s one thing that fans, pundits, and bloggers who think they know it all rip Dick LeBeau and his system apart week to week when the team loses. But when the players – one of your own defensive leaders – admits that when they step on the field and doubt what’s being called… now that’s a problem.
It’s harsh words from Foote, but whether it comes from a place of truth or more of an excuse for not executing and making plays when they (or just Foote) need to is inconsequential. The bottom line for fans, coaches and players is that the defense needs to make plays. And that, they are not doing.
There’s is where LeBeau’s stubbornness really is beginning to hurt the team. The predictability of play calling – based on things Carson Palmer did during the game and said after – is starting to shred this defense that is banged up, bleeding, and looking for any type of relief. The absence of Polamalu and Harrison are greatly hurting the team. Young players are far from stepping up and filling their shoes. You can’t call the same plays you would for your stars and starters when average Joes are on the field and expect to get the results. The defensive schemes need to change in order to accomodate for Cris Carter’s in ability to clear the edge like Harrison does. The middle of the field needs help with coverage to accomodate for Ryan Mundy’s inability to play tight up front and then escape downfield if someone goes deep. The list goes on.
In addition, were any of these guys to have an off night – the rest of the system falls apart. There’s no arguing that LeBeau’s system is sheer brilliance. But it is catastrophic to have a system in place that is completely dependent upon each and every player working within the realm of perfection. That is a flawed system.
And, with the aging defense and the increased risks of players becoming injured, opposing offenses will continue to shred this defense. That you can trust.