The Steelers’ Postseason Dreams Will Be Determined By The Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers played a gutsy, valiant game in the Emerald City. Markus Wheaton torched the Seattle Seahawks secondary for 201 yards on nine catches. The highlight was a deep pass between two defenders on his way to a 69-yard touchdown. Wheaton could have had another big gain by the sideline, but a review of the play negated it. Officials said he didn’t possess the ball with two hands. Wheaton said he did.

Ben Roethlisberger once again proved he’s a cyborg. The Pittsburgh signal-caller burned the Seahawks for 456 yards. In the fourth quarter, a helmet-to-helmet collision with Michael Bennett drew a penalty, but Big Ben stayed in the game. Roethlisberger drove the Steelers inside the Hawks red zone but couldn’t punch it in. On fourth down, Mike Tomlin made what many are saying was the mistake of the game. Instead of going for the go-ahead touchdown, he chose to kick the field goal.

To compound the situation, Roethlisberger never returned to the game. He was taken to the locker room and examined for a possible concussion.

The Steelers' Postseason
[Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]

The stage was set. All the Steelers had to do was come up with a defensive stop and the game could be won. The Seahawks had a slim 32-30 lead. Another field goal would send the Steelers home with an impressive road win over the defending NFC West champions.

After getting the ball at the 20-yard line, the Seattle offense was stalling. Momentum was in the Steelers’ favor, and the defense had forced the Seahawks into a third-and-nine. Then it happened. Russell Wilson dropped back to pass and saw Doug Baldwin running an under route. Wilson placed the pass perfectly, and Baldwin was off to the races. Eighty yards to the end zone and the rest is history.

It’s easy to judge. But the Steelers postseason dreams are going to be determined by the defense. That’s when focus and timing are crucial.

It would be so convenient to say that Mike Tomlin should have gone for the touchdown. The Steelers had racked up 538 total yards of offense on the Legion of Boom. The Steelers air attack was lighting up CenturyLink field like an air raid. That’s the answer. Both teams had secondary problems that were exposed.

If Tomlin had opted for the touchdown and a 34-32 lead, the Steelers would still need to make that defensive stop. The way the Steelers pass defense was playing, there was no way that was happening. Wilson had already lit up the coverage for four scores before the shoddy job on Baldwin. The loss isn’t on Tomlin. The loss is on a Steelers’ secondary that is jeopardizing the postseason dreams.

The Steelers' Postseason
[Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]

After signs of maturity, the defensive backfield is starting to fall apart. Wilson was the third quarterback in as many games to throw for 300 yards against the Steelers. Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel also had their way against their defense. Carr threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns, and Manziel threw for 379 yards and one touchdown.

Graciously adding Russell Wilson’s 345 yards, the Steelers have allowed 1,025 in the last three games. That kind of effort will lead to a catastrophe, in the postseason.

The combined efforts of those quarterbacks return a 113.6 passer rating. There’s no need to talk about touchdown ratio, QBR, or yards per attempt. Giving up 1,000 yards in three games is enough to make your head spin. The total numbers rival those of Roethlisberger.

“The biggest thing that stood out was the big plays, and that’s on us a whole,” Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats explained, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We can’t give up big plays because it turns a day where we are feeling like we are having success into a disaster.”

Mike Tomlin didn’t cause the loss with his decision. The defense has to embrace their inefficient play and correct it. The Steelers’ postseason dreams depend on it.

[Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]