ShareThis Page
Steelers

Tim Benz: Maybe we're talking about reconnecting wrong WiFi for Steelers

| Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, 7:12 p.m.
The Steelers' Joe Haden takes down the Falcons' Julio Jones in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Joe Haden takes down the Falcons' Julio Jones in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Maybe we’ve all been focusing on the wrong WiFi?

While the “restored connection” between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown was a big story emerging from the Steelers’ win over Atlanta Sunday, another network might have been patched up as well.

And it’s on the other side of the ball.

The defensive communication — or lack thereof — has been a focal point of criticism for this Steelers team.

Rightfully so.

Last second substitutions, frantic pre-snap checks and constant confusion have been hallmarks of the Steelers defense this season.

That problem seemed to dissipate Sunday against the Falcons.

“We communicated so much better (Sunday),” defensive captain Cameron Heyward said. “It was multiple guys, using hand signals. We had so many guys in that game, especially with Vince (Williams) out at inside linebacker.”

That’s an interesting point.

Williams almost never comes off the field when he’s dressed.

Barring injury, he usually only goes to the sideline during the dollar package. He didn’t play yesterday, though, because of a hamstring injury.

Hence, one would think — especially because he assumed many of the signal-calling duties since Ryan Shazier was injured last December — that the chaos pre-snap would get worse. But according to many on defense, it didn’t.

“When (Williams is injured), everybody goes in there together, knowing we have to over-communicate,” cornerback Joe Haden explained. “We have to make sure everybody is on the same page for that simple reason.”

Tyler Matakevich and L.J. Fort had the “green dot” communication helmets. They combined to absorb Williams’ workload and his signal-calling.

Matakevich was mainly on the field in running situations, and Fort played during more pass-oriented situations. He blitzed a few times as well.

“Everybody was working in cahoots, echoing the calls,” Haden said.

Haden illustrated how essential communication could be in the secondary on one play in particular.

It was a third down with 2 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Falcons needed 9 yards for a first down.

Haden had been following Atlanta receiver Julio Jones most of the day.

In this situation, Jones went in short motion and stopped. At that moment, Haden made a hand signal and shouted something toward teammates Mike Hilton and Sean Davis.

After the snap, Haden guarded Mohamed Sanu instead and allowed Jones to run right into a bracket between Hilton and Davis. Matt Ryan tried to drop the ball into Jones between the defenders but misfired, and the Falcons were forced to punt.

Haden bounded off the field in excitement as if he had made a pass breakup himself. It was as if he was Mr. Miyagi, and Hilton and Davis were “The Karate Kids.”

The light just went on, and the secondary had collectively learned how to “wax on, wax off.”

“Whenever we had that situation, we knew what was coming,” a beaming Haden recounted. “It was us talking through what was going to happen, and it happened. From film study, we just talked it up. We knew what was coming, and we made the play. That’s why I was so excited.”

With Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green up next, maybe the Steelers can employ some of the same strategies and communication methods with equal effectiveness.

If Haden shadowed Jones, why not do it again with Green?

He’s tied with Antonio Brown and Eric Ebron for the AFC touchdown receptions lead with five.

Whatever the case, the Steelers need to bring the same WiFi hotspot to Cincy that they fired up at Heinz Field. It seemed to have enough bandwidth for A.B. and Big Ben, plus 11 guys on defense.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact at Tim at tbenz@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH.

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.

click me