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.