Steelers Nation Speaks: Lack of Pass Rush Stymies Steelers Against Patriots

The frustration following the Steelers 36-17 AFC Championship loss to the Patriots has been palpable throughout Steelers Nation. And for good reason. The Steelers fell flat, allowing their conference rival New England Patriots to cement their status as the top dog in this era.

Javon Hargrave, Tom Brady, Javon Hargrave Tom Brady sack, Steelers vs Patriots, Steelers AFC Championship

Lack of Steelers pass rush doomed Pittsburgh vs. Patriots, Javon Hargrave’s sack of Tom Brady notwithstanding. Photo Credit: Charles Krupa

But the question our post game poll asked our readers to answer was why? What was the critical flaw that caused the Steelers to fall short? Perhaps that, in and of itself is too limited of a question, as multiple factors were at work.

  • But the objective of this poll, if perhaps imperfectly applied, was to ask readers to make a stand.

Steelers AFC Championship PatriotsThe poll’s results were interesting. For 61% of readers, the Steelers lack of a pass rush and inability to pressure Tom Brady is what doomed Pittsburgh against New England. That’s a fair conclusion. Indeed, if Jim Wexell’s reporting is correct, the Steelers had a rather unorthodox plan to get to Brady, it didn’t work.

Javon Hargrave sacked Brady early when the Steelers were only 3 points down. When Sean Davis got to him next, the Steelers 2016 rookie of the year indulging in nothing more than pure garbage time glory. In between, it seems like the Steelers hardly laid a glove on Brady. Maybe that’s not quite right, but visions of Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier never materialized.

  • Next, 27% of readers opined that the Steelers young defense wasn’t ready.

Again, it’s hard to argue to the contrary. As noted in the post-game report card, whatever play Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin called on the Patriot’s first touchdown certainly didn’t call for Chris Hogan to have half the end zone to himself.

After that, polling dropped to single digits. Cobi Hamilton, Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates inability to be Antonio Brown’s number 2 only drew 5% support. The Steelers lack of a Red Zone threat, which admittedly is closely tied to who is their number 2 wide receiver, only clocked in at 3%.

Suprisingly, the fact that the Steelers lost Le’Veon Bell so early in the game also only drew 3%. And even a smaller share of our readers, 2% felt that Ben Roethlisberger’s short comings were the decisive factor in this loss.

Final Comment on Poll Results, Questions

With 20/20 hindsight, the question about whether the defense was too young to go toe-to-toe with the New England Patriots is probably the wrong one.

I should have applied the question to the Steelers team as a whole. As Bob Labriola has argued, the Steelers offensive miscues were just as, if not more costly than their defensive failings. To that end, the question about the Steelers Red Zone failings and their wide receiver probably should have been lumped together as one.

  • Even with that said, you our readers have spoken, and it is your view that the Steelers defense was the Achilles heel vs. the Patriots.

And these polls are about giving you your voice. Thanks as always to all of you who took out time to vote.

Final Coverage on 2016 Season to Come

The Pittsburgh Steelers are already moving on from the 2016 season and working on scouting players for the 2017 NFL draft and making the team’s first free agent decisions. That’s exactly as it should be.

  • Steel Curtain Rising will of course provide full coverage of the Steelers moves in free agency along with assessing their draft needs.

But before closing the book on the 2016 we’ll do a final season-ending report card, take a look at some of the season’s defining moments, and provide a full throated “what it all means” end of the season review.

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