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Defense can, must improve

Posted Aug 23, 2014

To a man, the Steelers defenders weren't happy with what happened in Philadelphia

The good news is the Steelers’ defense kept pace with the Eagles’  high-octane offense in Philadelphia.

“We’re in good shape,” cornerback Cortez Allen assessed. “There was no part in the game I felt tired or anything like that.”

Unfortunately for the Steelers, dealing with the Eagles’ rushing and passing attacks proved more problematic in Thursday night’s 31-21 preseason loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We didn’t play very well,” strong safety Troy Polamalu said.

The Eagles had 182 yards rushing, 482 total net yards and averaged 6.1 yards per play on a night in which the Steelers’ first-team defense played for three quarters.

Philadelphia scored third-quarter touchdowns on drives of 60 and 80 yards engineered by backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. And the first-team defense was responsible for six of the 13 penalties incurred by the Steelers (three more flagged fouls were declined by Philadelphia).

“We just got to be consistent, be focused on our individual jobs and responsibilities, and we’ll be all right,” Allen maintained. “We just have to be disciplined. We fix our individual problems as far as within the scheme of the defense and a lot of these problems don’t exist.”

Coach Mike Tomlin’s “knee-jerk response” was much less complex.

“Defensive football is simple at times,” Tomlin said. “It’s about defeating blocks and making tackles. It didn’t appear we were coming off enough blocks consistently enough to shut down their running game.”

Rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was “very disappointed” with what transpired after the Steelers allowed two first downs and then forced a punt on the Eagles’ game-opening possession.

“I felt like they just ran up and down passing, running, doing whatever they wanted to,” he said. “I feel like it’s really going to help humble us a little bit. We were feeling pretty good. I feel like it’s really going to help us become a better defense because it shows us we have a lot to work on.”

Defensive end Cam Heyward didn’t like the results or the Steelers’ collective approach on defense.

“There’s got to be a sense of urgency going into the season,” he said. “If we don’t step it up now, Cleveland is going to come into our house and beat us.”

The Steelers have one preseason game remaining, Thursday night against Carolina at Heinz Field, before hosting the Browns in the regular season opener on Sept. 7.

“I’m not going to predict the future, whether we are or are not ready,” Polamalu said. “If you look at this performance (against Philadelphia) you could say we definitely are not. If you look at the last game’s performance (a 19-16 decision over Buffalo on Aug. 16) you could say maybe we have a shot.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement. Whether or not we improve, only time will tell.”

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