3 biggest problems the Steelers had in their playoff loss

Maurkice Pouncey #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Maurkice Pouncey #53 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) (Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

I legitimately thought the Steelers were going to dominate defensively, and that was a mistake considering the injuries.

I am not going to dwell on this very much. I don’t think injuries are a valid excuse every week. I do have a bone to pick with the NFL in regards to what not having the bye on time could have done to Pittsburgh. The Steelers defensive is built around its linebackers. We are still a 3-4 base even if we rely on nickel packages more than our base defense. So looking at who we were missing, between Bud Dupree and Devin Bush I shouldn’t have been surprised that come playoff time we would have issues on defense.

Yet, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, was the loss of Highsmith. I do think they picked the wrong man for his replacement but once he was out, any chance at pressure started dwindling. Their backup left guard handled Heyward easily throughout the entire game, and with him winning his matchup, they could double and sometimes triple-team Watt throughout the rest of the game. It was ugly.

Stephon Tuitt’s presence was never found in this game, and truthfully the defensive line did not have enough to overcome the loss of Highsmith on the edge. I was starting to question the massive contract we signed Tuitt to. I was questioning the snaps given to Marsh. I was even questioning whether Watt should still be the Defensive Player of the Year as Aaron Donald in limited snaps this weekend still sacked the much better Russell Wilson twice. Pittsburgh generated zero pressure with a 4 man rush and we haven’t seen that in years.

In the second half, we started blitzing and for a minute it was working, until Cleveland decided to throw the ball, and do it quickly. At that point, the defense looked like it could do nothing. Bush would have done a much better job in coverage over the middle of the field than Williams, who looked overpaid last night, and Robert Spillane who looked slow and non-committal in his reads, and considering Dupree’s season I fail to even contemplate if Marsh would look like an NFL player in comparison to Bud. For a defense built around linebackers, this defense did not have what it took to overcome the significant injuries it had to deal with in the biggest game we have played in 3 years.