Show Me Your Effort

By Matthew Marczi

Following one of the worst defensive efforts in franchise history, the subject of ‘effort’ was suddenly a hot topic in and around Pittsburgh.

In fact, coaxed by the local media in the moments immediately following the emotional loss, head coach Mike Tomlin even allowed himself to get sucked into the narrative that the only answer to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ problems must have been a lack of effort, and he promised that those responsible would be held accountable.

The following morning, the stories were published about how the 55-31 blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots was symptomatic of a team that had already been defeated in spirit and motivation before actually losing the game.

Meanwhile, those who spent the following hours and days combing through the aftermath of the loss seemed to collectively determine that, while a veritable smorgasbord of ailments helped contribute to the 55-point defensive effort, a sheer lack of ‘want-to’, as Brett Keisel would say, was not on the menu, nor on the film.

Questioning the effort of a team in the throes of defeat is the most convenient narrative to describe what went wrong. It is an amateur’s diagnosis for a problem that is quite clearly manifold and complex.

As noted by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, via Twitter, there may have been some plays throughout the evening, particularly late in the game, that initially appeared symptomatic of quitting. Kaboly in particular, and astutely, points to the late-game scores, namely Aaron Dobson’s 81-yard touchdown reception and, later, the score from five yards out by LeGarrette Blount.

Initial impressions might say that these were plays allowed by a team that stopped caring a couple scores back, but that is far from the case. If anything, they are typical of what happens when a team tries too hard to make something happen.

In the first instance, Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark were both caught selling out on the run. Blount had just burned them for 12 yards on the first play of the drive, and the defense was getting gashed on the ground all night. So when they saw run formation, they thought they might cheat up and get a jump on the play.

Instead, the rookie receiver wisely observed the way the secondary was playing him, and before long, he was waving his arm in the air frantically, indicating to his quarterback that, if you can hit me, we’ve got a home run over my way, and so it was. Not for a lack of trying.

It was at this point that many began to wonder whether it was time for the coach himself to quit and call for his quarterback to hit the showers, including the media that had just asked him about his team quitting, as Bob Labriola poignantly discussed yesterday.

The Steelers did not fold then, however. Steve McLendon didn’t give up either, even when Ziggy Hood had Blount in his grasp at the cusp of the goal line. He so wanted to help bring Blount down that he tried to get in on the tackle around his fellow defensive lineman. Only in the process, he knocked Hood off the tackle, as well as himself in the process, which left Blount catapulting into the end zone from the sudden lack of resistance.

Chances are that is not what the play looked like when it happened live. And if you never bother to go back and watch to see what exactly happened, you were probably left with the impression that these players had given up. And that is perfectly fine for Joe Sports Fan, who has no obligations.

Professional sports writers, on the other hand, ought to show more discretion in their work, rather than simply echo the sentiments that Joe Sports Fan is hoping to hear echoed in the Monday morning sports page.

Whether a deliberate appeal to gain favor with a frustrated audience or not, simply throwing up one’s hands and blaming everything is the simplistic angle made equally for easy consumption as well as easy construction.

If your angle is to tell the readers that their team gave up, that they lacked effort, then show them your own effort. Explain how and where and when somebody gave up, and what it led to.

If you’re not willing to do that, then pick another angle.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • RW

    Um… New England is a better team.

  • CrazyTerry

    What about the NE RB pretty much pushing the pile for 5 yards on one TD and there were a couple of other instances where something similar happened? But yes, it was more of lack of talent, composure, and wits that led to the loss.

  • Shea Fahr

    There is no quit in this Team and as bad as things are, I still look forward to beating the Bills butts in a few days. The Playoffs are probably all but a dream at this point but I still will be excited to see how our Steelers get back up and react the next 8 games.

  • Kalan Bell

    Good solid article. What you said makes sense and the media should be held accountable. Watching it live I could tell the team wasn’t quitting. Certain fans and media people see what they want to see and that’s what happened here.

  • SG

    So then it’s like what Tomlin said in the press conference, they got beat. They got beat because the young guys aren’t talented enough and the old guys have lost too many steps. Great. Too bad it wasn’t lack of effort, that would be easier and quicker to fix. The fix this team needs will take a couple seasons.

  • I don’t think the team quit overall. I DO think Ike quit on the Dobson TD pass. Once he got beat, he made what appears to be only a token effort to recover.

  • treeher

    Because this team lacks overall talent, they have individuals who are trying to do not only their job, but others’ as well. I think the team would be better off if players concentrated on their own responsibilities (offense AND defense), except perhaps for somebody like Polamalu who has the talent and experience to freelance.

  • whisn

    There is one glaring lack of effort on the play that begins at 4.29 – 1st quarter. Some will dismiss it as being confused by the offsides, but there was no whistle until Gay made the tackle (Great play William, save a TD), play to the whistle.

  • Matthew Marczi

    And be embarrassed again like being outraced by a quarterback on a 93-yard touchdown? I view that as a post-play decision. Frankly, I would consider actually running full-speed a ‘token effort’, since there was no chance in hell of him being able to make a difference on the play.

    I get what you’re saying, but to me, this isn’t even the equivalent of jogging down the first base path on a sure out. At least there’s a chance of a throwing error or being pulled off the base. Ike was beat and there’s nothing he could’ve done about it.

    The effort I’m talking about is game-changing. Was there any sign of lack of effort that actually contributed to the loss? Based on my own tape review, my answer is no.

  • Oh, I agree with you overall, that just stuck out at me. It seems like Ike has a tendency to jog when he knows hes beat, and I don’t like seeing that. Like Don Beebe showed year back in the SB, you just never know…

  • Mike Sweeney

    Obviously, there’s never any quit, just lack of execution. Dream yes, but always hopeful, it will become a reality, in my dream. For whom the Bell tolls

  • Shannon Stephenson

    This has been Clark’s biggest problem IMO is playing out of position because we are lacking somewhere else exposing him self to big plays and now the whole defense is now doing the same.

  • charles

    It appears that the Patriots exploited the middle of the field or the middle fielders. Thereby putting our defense on their heels. Once again, though, it appears that the Patriots O plan constantly surprised us. Like Oakland our defense played confused.Very Confused…

  • RW

    Just throwing this out there, but ESPN had an interesting segment the other day about an NBA GM who more or less instructed his team to lay down for the season in order to get a high draft pick. In essence, he knew that the best his team could do was have a mediocre season, and what that would mean was: 1) no championship (which is the point of playing the game) and 2) a bad draft pick (only the top 10 in the NBA are worth their weight in gold, which is fast happening in the NFL, with several noticeable exceptions).

    I wonder whether Steelers fans feel the same way as the GM or not at this point. Let the debating begin. (For the record, I value dignity).

  • HiVul

    I have no problem with a mediocre team tanking it in order to get better draft picks. I don’t think it’s undignified because I see it as nothing more than a pragmatic effort to help an organization be successful and make the playoffs in the future. Take the Steelers, what’s the difference between 6-10 and 2-14 other than a better draft pick? In the NFL, the playoffs mean everything. If you don’t make the playoffs then the season is a failure regardless of your record. If you’re going to fail, do it in a way that could possibly help you in the future.


    best i could do

  • Anyone who did that should immediately be fired. Because unless you have the #1 pick you can not guarantee you will get the player. And also no guarantee the player will want to even play for you.

  • RW

    Please don’t ever respond to anything I write again – you’re a d-bag.

  • I will do and say whatever I want whenever I want. Whether ya like it or ya don’t like it, learn to love it because its the best thing going today.

  • 2-14 could mean being forced to take a player or position you do not want. Tanking seasons never ever does any good at all. Just ruins the team.

  • HiVul

    Having a better draft pick can only make it more likely you will get players you want, not less. I don’t understand your point about being forced to take a player you don’t want, why would that happen? Most bad football teams have plenty of positions that need help, you don’t go into a draft targeting just one guy.

  • You can be forced to take the #1 over all rated player who may not be the best player, and if you don’t have a quarterback and there is a supposed cant miss prospect. And you can not trade down you may have to take that player.

    And I am pretty sure:

    Washington Redskins-Targeted RG3 That was the only quarterback they were going to take.

  • HiVul

    Well that’s the job of the scout team and the GM to look at that player and decide if they live up to the hype. I know draft picks will not always work out, but players slump too, we can’t predict the future. But you have to put your team in the best possible position to win, based on what you know.

    I’m not saying that a team should tank anything before they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, especially in the NFL. But I don’t see any shame in starting back ups during meaningless games at the end of a bad season. If you can move up the draft board then it will help.

    Look at it this way, if the Steelers fall to something like 3-9 do you really want Roethlisberger out there taking all those extra sacks anyway? To me it’s no different than resting a guy before the playoffs when the seeds are locked up.