Steelers Secondary In Serious Need Of Rebound Showing Versus Colts

While there is no shame in getting burned by Matt Ryan, last year’s league MVP, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary certainly has a lot to own up to when it comes to their performance against the Falcons’ third-string quarterback, Matt Simms, during Sunday’s victory over Atlanta at Heinz Field.

Some of the issues can be attributed to communication issues, as I talked about yesterday. You can also cite the absence of starting safety Mike Mitchell and inside linebacker Ryan Shazier as contributing factors to the issues that arose against a quarterback who is clearly not a starting throwing the ball largely to others who are backups.

Another contributing factor is the simple fact that there was likely very little, if any, game planning that went into the game, and game planning can make a big difference, especially for players like Ross Cockrell and William Gay, both of whom rely heavily on their understanding of their opponents’ tendencies.

All the justifications in the world, however, could ever fully excuse the totality of their performance, and Cockrell is surely at the center of the crosshairs. Coming off a strong game against the Giants, the fourth-year cornerback was beaten badly in two critical situations, though only had to pay the price for one of them.

The Falcons were facing a third and goal at the end of their second drive of the game, in which Simms checked into the game off the bench following an evident hand injury to Matt Schaub. The third-string quarterback made his throw as his target beat Cockrell at the line on an inside slant, but the wide receiver failed to hold onto the ball. The cornerback lost this rep big time, but was spared the consequences.

That was not the case later in the game when he got burned outright on a deep pass that resulted in a 44-yard gain. And Gay’s missed tackle early in the game on a pass in the flat to a tight end that allowed a third and 10 to be converted is not justified, either.

I put together a film session article last week promoting the work that Gay and Cockrell did against the Giants in the opening preseason game. I could just as easily put together a series of lowlights from this past one.

The bottom line is that the secondary as a whole is in dire need of a bounce-back performance on Saturday against the Colts, as frankly neither Sean Davis nor Robert Golden looked as though they were doing their jobs sufficiently either.

At the very least, a strong showing in the third preseason game should serve to alleviate some fears among the fanbase about what they saw against the Falcons. There will be game planning in this one, and they won’t even have to face Andrew Luck. If they struggle again, they will certainly hear about it.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Jaybird

    I’m taking my rose colored Steeler glasses off. This secondary still stinks . Can they get a little better as the season goes along? Probably yes. But will that be good enough to win another Super Bowl??? Let’s hope so.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    A strong showing against Scott Tolzien, who is arguably a worse player than Landry Jones, will do very little to inspire confidence in me. A poor showing against him would be a disaster. I wish they were facing a tougher test this week, but you can only play the guys on the schedule. Having said all that, they need to dominate…. 3 points or less at halftime for Indy and force a turnover or 2.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I think this secondary is in trouble already – not because of the preseason game, but because they needed a major boost after last year and the way things have played out, that hasn’t happened and they have taken a couple of hits instead.

    They failed to add anyone strong to the CB group, Golson is still unable to play, Sutton hasn’t been able to get any time in during the preseason when snaps are available and we’ve seen an injured Mitchell and a somewhat lessor Davis so far.

    Seriously hope a CB apple falls from the cutdown trees or this group is going to struggle yet AGAIN.

  • NickSteelerFan

    Sutton and Golson are hurt and Allen was drafted as a long term prospect. They all seem like great prospects, so it’s not the coaches fault that they are still stuck with starting the people they didn’t intend to have start.

  • Steve Johnson

    Stop making excuses, the secondary is a Joke! Mitchell isn’t too much better in coverage than Robert Golden. Besides, he’s constantly injured anyway. Shazier and Dupree doesn’t play in the secondary. If they were present last Sunday, would it have made a difference? The secondary and communication issues are pathetic, and someone should be held accountable.

  • Steve Johnson

    What about the communication issues? This has been a problem every since Carnell Lake took over as the position coach.

  • NickSteelerFan

    Very true, but it’s hard to judge the level they can perform up to when the two best communicators, Mitchell and Shazier, weren’t in the game.

  • Guest12

    In life sometimes you get what you pay for and that holds very true in the NFL. If you keep paying cheap players, you’re going to get cheap performances. We should have opened up the wallet just a little bit and brought in Micah Hyde instead of Coty. We would still have enough cap space to resign Tuitt this year, we may not have been able to bring in Alualu but having someone in the secondary you can count on would have been more important than bringing in a guy who can give the starters a break.

  • AndyR34

    I say we hold Steve Johnson accountable! He has all of the answers and is stubbornly refusing to implement them! 😂

  • AndyR34

    But wait!!!! I thought the prevailing narrative was that we would be so-o-o much better due to the second year jumps of Burns and Davis? Are you suggesting that might NOT be true? Heresy, I say! 😄

  • cencalsteeler

    Looks like there’s a carryover from last year with the third down stops, too. Watt looked gassed out there when the cameras were on him. I sure hope this secondary tightens up and doesn’t do a repeat of bend don’t break in between the 20’s.

  • Conserv_58

    There is a reason why Cockrell wasn’t signed to a contract extension and was put on display against the Falcons.

  • barry foster

    Yeah getting toasted by backups.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Mike Mitchell has never missed a game though

  • John Pennington

    Why cant the steelers move away from Ross.I cant see keeping him any longer.Put Allen in and Hixon in the last 2 games to see how they hold up.You know what Ross and Gay can do let the young guys all battle it out its time maybe to move on from some vets.look for safety help.Golden cant help the team in coverage at all.Quit holding on to these players.

  • Jaybird

    I think I said that exact thing a few days ago. I’ll admit I thought the secondary would be a little better( not SOOOO much better) due to last years Rookies getting better , Dupree and Cam being healthy, alongwith the addition of TJ. I still think they will be better. I’m just not as certain it will be enough.
    Hell , I’m just as worried about the offense also!!!
    They’ve underperformed for a while now also. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my Steeler glasses 👓 back on . GO STEELERS!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yes, they will be better. Don’t overreact to a game against the Falcons in the preseason with no game planning and missing starters.

  • Woodsworld

    The Steelers have not had much of a focus on their secondary

  • Matthew Marczi

    [Obligatory post commenting on the fact that the Steelers’ rankings against passes over the middle versus tight ends and running backs were far, far worse than their passes on the outside to cornerbacks]

  • AndyR34

    Sorry Matthew…I forgot to use the sarcasm font.

  • AndyR34

    I’m with you on both points. 😎

  • Michael Conrad

    Burns may turn out to be good. I’m not sure on Davis seems to be a poor tackler at times. Think Gay’s number is up but hey they will play who they play. Cockrell is not a man CB but again they will play who the play. I’m not a Mitchell fan. I would get the young guys some playing time at CB . Hilton ,Sutton ,Allen. Steelers will play a weak zone and get away with it like last year.

    The major problem I see is the schedule. Its very weak. I see the D looking fair but not good because of the schedule. Steelers D will get smoked by a couple teams in season and get creamed in a playoff game.

    Tomlin says we can’t get off the field on third down. To get off the field on third down you need to cover the receivers not hope to get off some how. Admit there is a problem so you can solve it.

    The Colts are not a good test of the D as they have had problems moving the ball in the preseason.

    I watch a lot of games. Covering receivers is not easy with the rules. Good secondary’s still get beat but the coverage is much tighter then ours. Can’t defend a pass if your four yards away and struggling to catch up.

    CB not good enough to play man because they lack speed and the foot quickness. Can’t be counted on in a zone at some point what hinders them in man will show up in zone.

  • Steve Johnson

    LOL. Man, I’m just a die hard fan like everybody else. I think the Steelers are just as talented as the Patriots, just tired of watching them draft duds in the secondary. I’m just frustrated watching them struggle year-after-year in the secondary.