In a stunning turn of events in Week 13, the Pittsburgh Steelers endured a crushing defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. The 2-10 Cardinals, seemingly the underdogs, took control of the game at Acrisure Stadium, leaving the Steelers grappling for answers.
The match highlighted a series of shortcomings for the Steelers, who couldn't seem to capitalize on any aspect of the game, including the unexpected weather delays. Injuries added to their woes, with five key players hurt during the game, three of whom couldn't return to the field.
Elandon Roberts' groin injury was among the significant setbacks for the Steelers. Coach Mike Tomlin, in his post-game analysis, attributed much of the team's defensive collapse to Roberts' absence. "We lost some significant communication and some glue there," Tomlin explained, linking it to their on-field performance.
This gap in defense was apparent when the Steelers conceded a 99-yard touchdown drive immediately after Roberts' exit. Backup linebacker Mykal Walker, facing off against Trey McBride, struggled throughout the game, further highlighting the defensive chasm.
Defensive Deficiencies Highlighted
Yet, the Steelers' struggles were more profound than mere miscommunication or personnel mismatches.
Throughout the game, especially in the second half, basic tackling seemed to elude the team. This was evident as they allowed the Cardinals, led by former Steeler James Conner, to amass over 150 rushing yards. The defensive line, failing to exert adequate pressure, allowed Cardinals' quarterback Kyler Murray significant mobility, adding to the Steelers' defensive challenges.
Despite Roberts' injury playing a part in the defeat, multiple facets of the Steelers' gameplay fell short. Their frequent penalties compounded these issues, with Roberts himself missing a potential interception due to an unnecessary roughness call, which eventually led to a Cardinals' field goal.
Coach Tomlin, known for his "next man up" philosophy, appeared to focus on Roberts' injury as the primary cause of the defeat. However, this stance seems to overlook broader team issues and the need for strategic coaching adjustments.
Tomlin's reliance on this narrative of singular excuses calls for a critical reassessment of his approach if the team is to avoid continued underperformance. The defeat serves as a stark reminder that effective team management and performance depend on a holistic and adaptable strategy, extending beyond individual player contributions.