Ike Taylor expressed his feelings towards the struggles of Pittsburgh’s defense, Dick LeBeau, and their large amount of critics in a recent article by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
Coach LeBeau knows what he has, and we know what he has, … They blame somebody when it isn’t going good. They are always going to blame somebody. People will say what they want to say anyway so you just have to deal with it. Our confidence in him isn’t going anywhere.
I am going to ride with Coach LeBeau until my wheels come off.
I think it’s nice that the veteran cornerback is sticking up for his defense and his defensive coordinator amid all of the recent criticism. Heck, I would be shocked if he didn’t do those things.
But as much as I hate to be a “Negative Nancy,” Taylor’s comments got me thinking about one thing:
Aren’t the following performances indicative of “wheels falling off” for Dick LeBeau and the rest of Pittsburgh’s defense?
- Giving up 35 points, 385 total yards, and recording zero turnovers in an opening day loss to the Ravens in 2011.
- Letting Joe Flacco drive Baltimore 92 yards in 2:10 for a game-winning touchdown drive at Heinz Field in Week 9 in 2011.
- Surrendering three passing touchdowns to Carson Palmer and blowing a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter to the Raiders in Week 3 of 2012.
- Letting a “geriatric” Matt Hasselbeck carve the defense up for 291 yards passing, one touchdown, and surrendering a game-winning drive against Tennessee in Week 5 of 2012.
- Giving up 34 points and three touchdown passes to Philip Rivers at Heinz Field in a 34-24 loss to San Diego in Week 14 of 2012.
- Surrendering 341 passing yards and two touchdowns to Tony Romo, including a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and a game-winning field goal in overtime, in a “must-win” game in Dallas in Week 15 of 2012.
- Allowing 16/25, 248 passing yards and two touchdowns to Matt Cassel, seven catches for 124 yards to Jerome Simpson, and 140 yards on the ground plus two touchdowns to Adrian Peterson in a 34-27 loss in Week 4 of this season.
- Allowing 191 rush yards and three touchdowns during the first half of a 21-18 loss to Oakland in Week 8 of this season.
- Surrendering 610 total yards and 55 points, both franchise records, to the Patriots and Tom Brady last weekend.
- Oh, and how could we forget the fact that Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards, two touchdowns, rushed for 50 yards and another score in the 2011 AFC Wild Card game? I’m sure Ike Taylor remembers that disaster pretty vividly.
With these specific games in mind and the declining play of the unit in recent seasons, I would hate to see what the “wheels falling off” would actually look like for Taylor.
Pittsburgh’s defense currently ranks 31st in rushing yards allowed, 30th in takeaways recorded, T-29th in sacks, 23rd in points per game allowed, 22nd in third down conversion percentage allowed, 19th in completion percentage allowed, and 17th in yards per passing attempt allowed.
Look, I am not going to sit here and say that Dick LeBeau needs to be fired immediately and that he is the sole reason why the defense is turning in sub-par performance after sub-par performance. There is a lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and it has been noticeable particularly this fall.
Nevertheless, the fact that zero replacements have been adequately developed to take the place of the departed veterans (Aaron Smith, James Farrior, James Harrison, etc.) in recent seasons has been maddening to watch.
In addition, the fact that LeBeau’s soft-zone essentially invites precision, heck mediocre passers, to pick his defenses and defensive schemes apart with the quick passing game in today’s “pass-to set up the run” league is nothing to smile about either. The fact that the running game is so dismal this year has only put kerosene on the dumpster fire.
At this point though, I think that at least a couple of the “wheels” might be “falling off” for Pittsburgh’s defense. Personally, I am anxious to see what a Dick LeBeau-led “wheels coming off” performance looks like.
If Pittsburgh’s defense continues to struggle though, we could very well see one or two by the end of the 2013 regular season.
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