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Steelers Analysis

Two Alarming Steelers Trends after Patriots Loss

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Steelers LB Elandon Roberts
Steelers LB Elandon Roberts against the New England Patriots, Dec. 7, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers fell shot to another two-win team in their 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday. It was a loss that underlined many areas they struggled against the Cardinals. But two areas, the most basic areas on offense and defense in particular, stood above the rest as worrisome.

On offense, the Steelers got called for an illegal formation penalty again on Thursday. That comes after offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner guaranteed it would not happen this week, despite putting it on film. Then, the bad snaps continued, too. It was like watching the same movie in the first half of this game. Not only was it the same penalty, but it was because they did not cover up a tackle once again.

“That was the first thing we addressed,” Faulkner said before the game. “Obviously, we made sure that everybody understood that it wasn’t acceptable. We did that collectively as a unit. And then we’ve got to move on. They were definitely held accountable. Everybody was held accountable for any mistakes that were made in that game, because that wasn’t what we were hunting. Now we plan forward for Thursday night.”

Take it for what it is, but the same things happened again. That’s on coaching. You can not let that happen when you go over the same play it occurred on, the toss play where they use pre-snap motion. If the details were the focus, they failed once again. Even basic things like lining up in legal formations are trouble for the offense.

On the defensive side of the football, it all came down to communication. You can somewhat make an excuse for this one because Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander were out. But it was clear the Steelers came into the game wanting Elandon Roberts to play on a snap count. But he could not do that. In the main part, the defense could not communicate a lick without him on the field. Roberts even stayed on the field on one play to relay the call and then ran off. The group was in disarray until he played through pain, and he knew he felt it, but he did it anyway

“I’m always the type of player, I will never use an excuse. I was out there. I was ready to go for my team,” Roberts said.

He gets it. But the team’s inability to even get the play calls in, let alone line them up correctly, was baffling. It’s like the second level had no idea what to do. You get that when two of your contributing linebackers are newly minted veterans in the building, I get that. But at some point, you have to get something going with another method than just the guys on the field. If Walker, Martinez, and Mark Robinson can not relay those calls, someone else on the defense must wear that green dot, or the coaching staff must devise an alternative method like hand signals.

But since these two basic tenants of play that even practice squad players can do are not being met, Pittsburgh has struggled mightily over the last two weeks. When the basic details get thrown out the door, it’s hard to build a house without a foundation to work with in that respect.