Pitt needs better team play to turn it around
Big bodies attacking him two at a time have turned Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald into a defiant young man.
With hopes for a winning season wilting and critics sharpening their verbal arrows, Donald said the only way for Pitt to recover from its 2-4 start is to do it as a team.
“There are going to be people talking down, trying to always say something (bad) about us as a team,” he said, “but we just have to stick together.”
Donald was short on specifics, but he wouldn't be far off by suggesting the following:
• Eliminate mistakes with better focus from offense, defense and special teams.
• Force the opponent into errors by generating pressure with an improved pass rush that could lead to turnovers.
• Achieve more consistent play on the offensive line to keep the attack multidimensional.
Pitt has reached the midway point in the season with only two victories for just the third time in the past 11 years, and the schedule gets no easier the rest of the way. Pitt played two teams in the first half that are undefeated (Cincinnati and Louisville), and there are two more to come (Notre Dame and Rutgers).
The Panthers continue to be plagued by errors that appear correctable but resurfaced during the current two-game losing streak.
“Mental mistakes, communication,” Donald said. “Stuff that can be fixed.”
Giving up 45 points to a good — but not a great — Louisville team can't be tolerated. The defense must get better, a task made more difficult with linebackers Shane Gordon and Manny Williams hobbled by leg injuries. The return of outside linebacker Todd Thomas from a knee injury may help improve a defense that has recorded only one turnover in its four losses. Sacking the quarterback at a better rate than 1.6 per game also wouldn't hurt.
Also, Pitt can't afford ill-timed penalties, especially those nagging false starts (11 in six games). Rutgers, the No. 15 team in the BCS standings, is last in the Big East with 436 yards in penalties, but it is talented enough to compensate in other areas. Pitt (354) has no such luxury and needs clean execution and sharper decision-making from players and coaches.
Donald, whose reputation has drawn double-team blocking that has reduced his effectiveness, said it's time for Pitt to take control.
“We can't change those four losses,” he said, “but we can change those two wins to three, four, five.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7997.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.