David DeCastro Agrees Steelers Play Down To Opponent

It’s been one of the recurring themes in the Mike Tomlin era: playing down to the opponent. Dave Bryan had the great stat on Twitter yesterday.

David DeCastro was asked if he feels the team plays down to those opponents. And he couldn’t disagree.

“Um…yeah…that’s been proven the past couple years since I’ve been here,” DeCastro told reporters via Steelers.com. “Reminds me of the Jets game early on. Early turnovers, just flat, couldn’t get anything going. It’s tough, just tough. I don’t know if it’s something in the water or the air. I don’t know, I just wish I knew.”

That Jets game came in 2014, where a 6-3 Steelers’ squad fell to a 1-8 Jets team, 20-13. Pittsburgh would rebound, going 5-1 the rest of the way and finish the year 11-5. But too often, the Steelers have had to rebound instead of avoiding the loss altogether.

I don’t think DeCastro was taking a shot at Mike Tomlin but a question, and an issue, like that falls at the head coach’s feet. But it’s an issue that doesn’t have an immediate solution as DeCastro struggles, like the rest of us, to come up with an explanation.

It’s why, frankly, the idea of this team going 13-3 was always pie-in-the-sky. There is always that one “how did that happen?” loss every year to trip this team up: 2016 to Philadelphia (7-9), 2015 to Baltimore (5-11/Ryan Mallet), and 2014 to New York and Tamp Bay (4-12/2-14).

There are always in-depth explanations for each loss and sure, it happens to other teams, too. Heck, New England got blown out by Kansas City and had to storm back to beat Houston yesterday. There’s only one team in the AFC undefeated right now.

But the Steelers’ misery joining that company doesn’t make it any more palatable and certainly isn’t the path to trying to obtain home-field advantage come playoffs.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Chris92021

    It really does come down to not just the head coach but also Big Ben. He’s part of the problem. Big Ben is capable of having a 400 yard, 5 TD day that makes every Steeler fan and fantasy football owner giddy. Big Ben is also capable of 180 yard, 2 turnover day as well. He puts up about 4-5 bad to meh games a year while elite QBs like Brady and Rodgers might do it 1-2 times a season. I am convinced now this is who Big Ben is going to be the rest of the way. The offense needs to revolve around the offensive line and the running game to ensure more consistency instead of trying to figure out if Big Ben “has it” by throwing one long incompletion after another.

  • srdan

    The road woes in my opinion are in the offensive room. 17 points allowed through 3 quarters when there were two turn overs in your own end is good enough. It should be good enough.

    We always talk about bens splits on the road. The defense plays well in these games. As hard as it is to say that the defense played well, when getting gauged like that. They played well enough to win when you look at the scoreboard. Stats are for fantasy, points are for the NFL. And 17 points in 4 quarters when your offense lets you sit on the field for that long, is good enough.

    The epitome of our road woes was the ben throw to Jesse James in the end zone. It’s like me when I play madden. I suck. I pick a player I will throw the ball to before I even snap the ball. That throw by ben looked to me like what I do.

  • Steelerfan56

    The O line blocking has sucked too so I don’t know if running the ball more will help.

  • Chris92021

    I like to believe those men will get better. If they don’t, it is going to be a long season for all of us.

  • The Tony

    These articles make me sad lol

  • srdan

    I dont know man. I saw holes yesterday. I may be wrong, but there were holes in my opinion. I’m a big advocate for Bell, but to me he doesn’t look like the same back.

  • Chris92021

    Almost like he’s afraid of getting injured and losing money in the offseason.

  • srdan

    Maybe. I’d chalk it up to surgeries and mileage. Heck man, in 2 years he accrued 4 years of work. And RBs short life is well documented.

  • Michael James

    Exactly. The Bears produced 17 points through 4 quarters. With our talent on offense and the Bears suspect secondary and linebacker injuries, this should easily be good enough for the Steelers to win.

  • JT

    I don’t buy that. Because he loses more money by underperforming. If he gets hurt, we more than likely still tag him. But if he doesn’t play up to his potential, he won’t get the contract OR the tag. Not that it was smart for him to turn down our contract in the first place….but I just don’t buy the logic there.

    I think he was rusty, moreso due to the injury than not playing in preseason. Because you know he would’ve been in bubble wrap even if he was here. And the line certainly not playing up to its levels of late last year. Even if they were average at times yesterday,

  • pittfan

    I’m with you. I’m concerned but won’t give up the ship till the mast goes under.

  • Chris92021

    You are probably right. However, Bell by now should be in football shape. Heck, he’s got 3 games under his belt. Hopefully he will break out and have 150 yards and 3 TDs this Sunday in Baltimore because honestly that is the only way we are beating those idiots.

  • Jones

    The Steelers are not a good team right now. On paper, they’re top of the league, but what they’ve actually fielded is not that on-paper team. Doesn’t mean they won’t get better as the season goes on (they usually do), it just means they are less than the sum of their parts right now. We need to stop daydreaming about “all the weapons” or “30 points per game” until the Steelers show us they can actually do it (which they’ve only done in about 6 games over the past two seasons). As we sit here today, we might as well be the Pittsburgh Antonio Browns. Until someone else not only steps up, but shows consistency, they’ll be a one trick pony (Ben to AB) that struggles to score more than 21 pts / game, made worse by the D not having an answer for the outside zone. I hope that by week 5 or 6, they start to look like a good football team, but for now, they’re just average, despite all the tools at their disposal.

  • Jones

    I mostly agree, 17 points allowed should have been good enough. But they didn’t allow 17 points – they allowed 23, getting absolutely gashed for the last 6 in OT. They wouldn’t have had to worry about it if special teams hadn’t gifted 6 points, but same story in the Dallas game last year. If the run D hadn’t gotten completely embarrassed in the final minutes, we’re looking at a W instead.

  • Rick McClelland

    Well its nice to see someone admitting to what almost every Steeler fan on the planet knows. The real questions are what is the head coach doing to fix this and why has it taken so long for anyone to catch onto the fact that this needs to be fixed? Fans almost get to the point where they look at the bad teams on the schedule and chock it up for a win for that team. The Steelers should have had 400 yards passing from Ben and 100 yards rushing out of Bell yesterday. The whole game was abysmal.

  • Michael James

    That’s true, but if the offense could just get going A BIT in the fourth quarter, we also win. They were granted a very good field position due to the interception and a good field position after the second to last Bears’ punt and all they could come up with were 0 first downs and a field goal.

  • Charles Mullins

    Give me Watson, give me Connor, give me counter, give me power, and give me trap.

  • Rick McClelland

    Bell has been like that skunk I see out by my garbage can every Monday morning. He’s really stinking up the place. So glad he could sit out all summer and not get any real work in.

  • steelburg

    Well he averaged about 4 yards a carry so he ran well by the numbers. He just isn’t running well at key moments IMO. When we hand it to him on 3rd and 1 or 2 we have to be able to get those yards to keep the chains moving. I think he was better yesterday then he had been in the first 2 games. But I still think like you that he looks a little off. But I think with each game he will get better. But the passing game being off like it is, it’s making it harder for both the run and the pass to complement each other.


    past 3 games, Ben’s performance was very mediocre
    and he repeatly made poor decisions
    He simply is not an elite qb like he was few years ago.
    i doubt he has much left in him at this point.

    and on defense, i blame it on coaches, they knew bears were running the ball
    and Chickadillo was clearly struggling against the run.
    but there was simply no adjustment or subs to fix the problem.

  • RMSteeler

    Might be doghouse words.

  • JT

    Agreed we need him more than ever Sunday. But I do think he had some nice runs yesterday. But again playcalling and penalties held him back.

  • Randy

    He has not fix anything for years and nothing gonna change. We will have same old discussion again the next game, next year and so on. Just look at belicheat, 1 game loss and how they are playing now. I hate the patriots but need to give kudos to their coaching staff

  • Ace

    Love it. Nice to see someone be real. He’s carrying the torch from Foster for the guy who speaks the truth and not just typical player talk.

  • francesco

    I’ve said this many times…when you are content in playing to win by 3 points then that is the extent of your effort.

  • Sri N

    Alex – would be cool to look at those 17 games and see if there were differences in terms of controllable factors (first down pass plays, downfield throws, middle of field throws, etc.) my sense is the team calls a much more conservative game. Tomlin seems to like the road formula of limiting mistakes early and then pulling away, but I think it backfires. No data backing that up – just feels like that’s what happens.

  • will

    “Imma need 15”

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Sorry but defense played to win, offense didn’t

  • will

    At least DeCastro admits there is a problem………..Tomlin does not even do that!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Bad choice to bring back a non comitted to play Player!

  • Gautama Om

    This is ALL on Tomlin. This redundant situation is really pissing me off.

    ARGH I’d rather be blown out by the Patriots ( which is hard too) than lose a close one to very bad team like the Bears. Worse we let them run all over us.

    Tomlin strikes again and he doesn’t even realize it. At least Decastro knows and apparently pissed off.

  • Ni mo

    And the line is not blocking and ben is fumbling also but it’s all on bell 😂😂

  • Ni mo

    They did ? By giving up 289 yards rushing this defense used to thrive on stopping the run

  • Ni mo

    And they won’t do nothin because the line is not blocking

  • Charles Mullins

    Did you watch the game yesterday where the beat up offensive line beat the defense into submission by the end of the game and started chunking off yardage? Because I did and I almost puked.

  • David

    Sorry to break it to you. Ben isn’t elite he’s great but elite is only reserved for 2 quarterbacks and it’s Rogers and Brady

  • Steelerman24752

    I’ve been a Steelers fan from the early 70’s, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. Can anyone remember the kind of things happening that have happened since Tomlin has taken over? Such as, the poor loses, players getting in trouble and suspended, getting players with questionable moral values (Vick and Blount). It just didn’t seem to me that Cowher or Knoll would have tolerated stuff like this.

  • David

    We use that elite term too loosely ben was never elite


    he was considered elite for a long time.

  • cencalsteeler

    I said this last season, but I honestly don’t think its Bell or the blocking. There’s tape on him now, and teams have done their homework. Stay home and be as patient as Bell. The league is catching up to his style just like a batter does after his second or third at bat against a starting pitcher.

  • Jones

    Ask Cameron Hayward today if he feels like their giving up 220+ rushing yards is “playing to win” in his eyes. I assure you that his and the defense’s definition of that term is different than yours.

  • LucasY59

    how could he disagree?

  • dany

    As long as it doesn’t come by the end of the year, Baltimore in 2015, or even near the end, Jets in 2014, I’m cool. One game, one chapter. Story is being written. Won’t even say “story is not over”, that implies it might be. Still too much football to be played, here at the end of September we know jacksquat about every team

  • cencalsteeler

    Not here to bash on Ben, but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to playing down to lesser teams and road games. Our memories take us back to the potential the young Ben once was, but he has not been sharp as of late. AB is one of the main reasons this O has faired well so far. Those catches have pulled Ben out of the incomplete category and even Haley has given AB props for his circus-type catches. This may be a nit-pik here, but he had 52 seconds left at the end of the game with a TO or two and I was really dissapointed on how that O was ran there.
    I’m not sure if it is Ben or Haley calling those deep throws (my hunch is it’s Ben), but those are just drive killers and such low percentage plays. Keep the D honest you say? I’d guarantee every DB who lines up against AB and Bryant consider the deep threat. 1 to maybe 3 times a game,…ok, but thery’re doing more harm than good throwing it as much as they have.
    My main concern after this short season though, is the constant repeat of problems of seasons past. That, to me, falls flat on the Coaching staff.

  • treeher

    While Cowher was accused of similiar coaching deficiencies (like poor clock management and ill-preparation for certain games) I don’t recall a lot of off-field issues … although, had Cowher coached in the age of Twitter and other social media, there might have been things unearthed.

  • treeher

    Tomlin can’t pass the ball. He can’t block obvious gaps on field goal attempts. He can’t not miss a tackle. Players bear the responsibility. IF the coach is lacking, players are expected to pick it up and perform. That isn’t an excuse for Tomlin, with whom I am pretty much done, but it is an indictment of the players on the field.

  • Bill

    When you look at this clinically you can see the mistakes and beak downs, but you don’t see the cause. I believe the problem is really us, the Steeler Nation. It us because we see a team with “an explosive offense”, with a “rising defense”. Because of the won/loss record we see a great coaching staff. All of those perceptions are doppelgangers. The reality for anyone who looks closely, is an erratic offense lead by an erratic quarterback and average receivers other than AB; and a defense that is unpredictable, I mean you just don’t know what they’re going to do; one game they give up a ton of passing yards and in another, a gaggle of rushing yards. And then there’s the coaching staff that cannot get the team to play at a consistent level; a coaching staff that is seemingly unable to make half time adjustments and thus somewhat alleviate first half inadequacy. So you see the problem is perception: we see them as a championship caliber team but our expectations are too high. Because of our expectations, we are in deep anguish when they look as bad as they did yesterday, which will very likely happen again; it’s now the teams culture. So, expect less and perhaps you’ll be more philosophical when they fall to a bottom feeder again.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Actually I was talking about Ben

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    I Think defense was exausted, too many time in The field, for 3 quarters they did good, and actually did put The offense in a good field position to finish The game 2 times!, its time for offense to do something, too many years of shortcomings!

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Not really, I do realize that those are too many rushing yards, but offense should help from time to time!

  • Orlysteel

    Think the Bears were pretty successful running the ball, you can’t be out physicaled.

  • MC

    Im glad a player came out and said it.

  • woodsworld58

    The players own this…period! Coaches, coach, but the players play. It looked like the players thought they had this in the bag, and didn’t tackle, set the edge, or wrap up. I think the players have been reading their own press clippings, and think the league is going to just lay down, and 30 points a game is in the bag.

  • Arthur Branch

    If he keeps playing like he has the first 3 games he won’t be looking at a big pay day this off season.

  • steelmann58

    Ok admitting is part of the problem now how is it solved

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I honestly just think this is part of the Steelers identity with this coaching regime. Have to take the good with the bad, and they do finish strong most seasons.

    But the Steelers identity is that of perennial playoff team who starts slow, gives up easier wins, and is tough down the last leg, although home field is rarely in their corner for that because of the former.

  • Conserv_58

    There is no excuse, what so ever, for this team to lose to inferior teams with the talent they have. IMO, they don’t have the collective moxie or swagger that coach Noll’s and Cowher’s teams had. There are individuals that embody those attributes that defined Steelers football, but I don’t see it or even hear it collectively from these players. Don’t sing it. Bring it! I don’t want to hear anymore crap about how they need to execute better or communicate better or protect the ball better because it’s actually insulting. Seeing is believing and from what we’ve been seeing from this team so far is not acceptable.

    I don’t think that Ben has hit the wall and is on the downside of his skill level. I think it has more to do with the play calling and poor decision making on his part. Whenever they’ve attempted to take their shots down field they have missed more than they’ve made. Having things like receivers fail to catch perfectly thrown balls, the defense looking like speed bumps against the bears’ running game, the DB’s looking like the modern day version of the Keystone Cops and stalling in the red zone is just more of the same of what has plagued this team. It is therefore incumbent upon coach Tomlin and his coaching staff to figure out why this team can not get out of their own way.

  • Conserv_58

    Losing Gilbert hurt, but that is still no excuse. The DL resembled the one in the AFCCG. Hargrave was the only impactful player. The rest were blocking dummies.

  • Conserv_58

    That is the exact reason why he didn’t show up for any of the off season work.

  • Conserv_58

    That’s a plausible explanation. The again, Bell has put himself in a very precarious position by not attending any of the off season workouts along with turning down the Steelers’ contract offer. If his paultry numbers are the result of his being afraid of getting injured and thus nullifying his chance of getting that $17 mill he wants then he loses. The only way for him to be in a position to cash in he has to equal or better his 2016 output.

  • srdan

    I seldom agree with you! But on this one you’re right. Except the last sentence, I think he can get a bottom dweller team to pay him $17MM who is trying to sell tickets, but not at the rate he is going. If he can do 85-90% of what he did last year cumulative, the teams making moves to big cities, or someone like the jets could throw Fortes money at him.

  • diamondback13

    I see the problem being that the Steelers rely on emotion for their motivation. Baltimore week – it’s ALWAYS emotional for them, and they’ll be up for this game. But Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago – they never get emotionally invested playing those games and it shows, both in gameplan & adjustments (coaching) and the play itself (players). It’s like they’re sleepwalking rather than playing as a focused, cohesive unit that has a Plan (Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C). All 3 phases of the game were just abysmal this past week – they need to be “UP” for EVERY game from here on out (but I doubt they will be).