Art Rooney II: “We Gave Up Too Many Big Plays”

During his talk with the media on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II made it clear that the defense did not play well this past season and that’s one area that the team will surely need to focus on during the offseason.

“Obviously, we want to get better,” Rooney said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We slipped on defense in some areas this year, particularly in terms of stopping the run; we’re not anywhere near the top of the league, which is where we’ve typically been and where we want to be. There’s no doubt there’s room for improvement there.

“We gave up too many big plays, there’s room for improvement there. Whether it’s getting younger or what other strategies we might use, we want to get better there. And that will be part of what we look at as the weeks and months go by here.”

The run defense and big plays are certainly two areas that troubled the Steelers last season and the stats reflect it.

Against the run, the Steelers defense ranked 21st in both rushing yards allowed per game (115.6) and rushing yards per play allowed (4.27). It might surprise you to know that the defense only allowed 10 runs of 15 or more yards last season and that tied them with the Cincinnati Bengals for the best in the league in that stat. However, the average gain on those 10 runs was 40.9 yards and that ranked them last in the league. Five of those 10 runs were good for 48 yards or more and all 10 resulted in 409 yards gained, which was 22% of all rushing yards allowed by the defense. TEN PLAYS!!!!

On the flip side of that, the Steelers defense also only registered 35 run tackles for negative yardage and that tied them for second worst in the league for that stat. When you subtract the 10 kneel downs from that total, that averages out to way under one negative stop per game.

As far as big plays allowed in the passing game, you know that has been a sore subject with me all season as well. While the defense only allowed 46 passing plays of 20 yards or more on the season, 12 of them were double explosive, meaning 40 yards or more. Those are killer and usually results in drives ending in points if they didn’t on the play itself.

In total, the Steelers defense allowed 17 plays of 40 yards or more on the season for 975 yards, or 57.4 yards per play. So, yes, merely cutting down on the double explosive plays allowed should be the biggest goal of the defense in 2014.

  • steeltown

    Obviously missed assignments and poor tackling were major factors this year when discussing giving up big plays, but may I also point out speed or lack there of.. Taylor and Clark have lost a step, as has Will Allen and of course Vince Williams and others upfront don’t have good top end speed. I personally wanted Shark Thomas on the field more this past year. Hell if it wasn’t for him chasing down that kick return the outcome of that game may have been different.

    We Lack Speed. We need more guys like Shark in the secondary with good speed. I hope when scouting DB/CBs this year they don’t just look for good size and tackling skills but also good top end speed.

  • Mike Carroll

    I found it interesting that Rooney seemed mostly pleased with the team this year. I think he’s right in giving them credit for finishing strong, especially after they the finished so poorly in 2012. One might make the case the team hit bottom at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, but are now working their way back up. There’s no question the offense found itself around midseason and showed that it can a very effective unit down the stretch. But, still this was another 8-8 team. The defense was not good last year and I’m glad to hear Rooney mentioning the possibility of getting younger as one solution. He also said the cap situation is not dire. I would agree with that if the team is planning to take advantage of this offseason to accelerate the transition on defense. That will mean transferring a lot of salary cap money from a few aging vets to the young players that will form the defense moving forward. Those decisions should be easy, not hard! I wonder if part of the reason Rooney is so optimistic is for that reason. The team will have a wonderful opportunity to invest in a number of younger players at reasonable rates at this point in time, especially coming off another disappointing team season. That will require the end of huge salaries to a limited number of aging defensive stars, but again, those decisions should not be terribly hard to make. Last year’s defensive results (combined with the trend over the last few seasons) provided more than enough evidence to suggest that the old SB defenses are long gone, so there is no reason to continue paying inflated SB salaries to players at the end of their careers.

  • cencalsteeler

    I would say the secondary missing tackling opportunities has to be one of the biggest culprits to giving up so many big or explosive plays. Not that the front seven has made some contributions as well, but the tackling by the secondary this season was just plain embarrassing.

  • David Edward

    I think an interesting thing is one of the premises of the LeBeau 34 Fire Zone is to eliminate, or keep to a minimum, the big play. From what I saw, the culprits were varied from play to play, so it was a collection of errors. One thing stood out to me, and that was teams were able to take advantage of the Steelers being over aggressive (or over committing) in run support. That’s not necessarily a new thing, but in the past, they were able to overcome that. Clark and Ike losing a step in the secondary was a big part of that. Also, the OLBs struggled to keep contain (Worilds did a better job of that at LOLB though)…and the backside OLB sometimes wouldn’t give proper pursuit (Woodley was especially guilty of that). On the inside, Timmons would get cut back on from time to time and Williams sometimes was late filling a hole.

  • cencalsteeler

    Agree. The line did over commit a lot and Williams did get caught in the wash a lot as well. I chalk that up to a young bunch of guys with on the job training, and for that, I am more patient and forgiving. Also, I noticed our defense was susceptible to the ZBS and it looked they were on roller skates, and we must give credit where credit is due. My main issue is with the secondary, for they are a group of vets (Allen aside) who have no excuse for their poor tackling techniques and missed assignments.
    The line needs to be more versed in going against the ZBS. The secondary needs to be reintroduced to the tackling sleds, IMO.

  • Mike Sweeney

    Less attempting at leg tackling and more efforts at body tackling please.It’s better to impede progress, instead of completely wiffing, on tackles could eliminate the huge plays to some degree. Tackling was atrocious to say the least. The upside is, they’ll improve!!!!

  • treeher

    Yes, that lack of speed caused players to be out of position and that impacted tackling efficiency.

  • In other insights, “they missed the playoffs”

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Wouldn’t it have been great if Art Rooney 2 had used the expression “double explosive plays”?