PITTSBURGH — After breaking down the tape and looking at what went wrong for his team in its 30-6 Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has decided that the biggest problem was in the way his team prepared for the game.
The Steelers did not practice in pads at any point in each of the two weeks leading up to the Texans game, owing to a short week from playing on Monday Night Football in Week 2 and another one because of a flight delay returning from Las Vegas in Week 3.
Tomlin said that he felt there was a large discrepancy in the way the two teams approached the game physically on Sunday, and he believes that stemmed from a lack of physicality in practice.
Houston, we thought, was more physical than us and played harder than us,” Tomlin said. “That’s something that’s got to change immediately. I felt that in stadium. I expressed that after the game. So we’ve got to look at what we’re doing in an effort to make sure that doesn’t re-occur.
“Specifically, in terms of the structure of preparation, it makes us look at our practice attire. The last couple of weeks, due to a variety of circumstances, short weeks via Monday Night Football, short weeks due to travel adjustments, et cetera, we’ve been in helmets in preparation and I think the start of the game, us warming up to the physicality component of it, probably had something to do with it. …
“I thought they had better pad level, particularly early in the football game, on both sides. And I just thought that was a catalyst in terms of how this game got started. We chose to defer in an effort to start fast. They had a 15-play drive. And so that wasn’t what we were looking for.”
There’s no question that the Texans dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the game, and did so with a patchwork offensive line that was missing six players due to injury.
The Texans did not allow a sack, while Kenny Pickett was sacked three times. They also out-rushed the Steelers, 139 yards to 114.
“We warmed up to the physicality component of play,” he said. “You can’t do it. You do it, you spot people 13, 16 points. You’re running on the beach at that juncture and that’s what the game felt like for us.”
Tomlin didn’t expressly say that he will be putting his team in pads this week, but it seems likely to be among the most noticeable of his promised changes.
According to the CBA, NFL teams can only practice in pads 11 times over the first 11 weeks of the season, and 14 times overall in the course of a season.