Steelers notebook: Execution problems dogging defense

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin promised changes Sunday if his players did not focus on getting better during the off week. Tomlin made those remarks after the 34-27 loss against Minnesota that dropped the Steelers to 0-4 for the first time since 1968.

Veteran safety and team captain Ryan Clark has been in the NFL for 12 years and knows how it works when teams go through long losing streaks, but he doesn't necessarily believe big changes are needed.

"When you're on 0-4, you're coached differently than when you're 12-4," Clark said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's the way it's always been. That's the tough part about losing. Things get sticky in the building. It's the NFL. Our job is not to play football; it's to win football games. When you don't win a football game, changes need to be made. The chemistry in the air, the personality of the building becomes difficult to live in."

Tomlin, Haley talk about Steelers' need to improve

Coaches Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley talk about shoring up some of the deficiencies the Steelers have shown in their first four games. Marcus Gilbert also comments. (Video by Lake Fong; 10/2/2013)

The team's woes are not for a lack of trying, Clark said. He does not believe the issues facing the team lie in effort on the field or in the way players are preparing for games.

"I'm just talking about effort," Clark said. "I'm just talking about the will to win. The film shows one thing, but I know when a guy gets blocked he's not trying to get blocked. I know when a guy misses a tackle he's not trying to miss that tackle. The effort is there. I think guys are playing hard. We just aren't executing.

"I know when guys are running to the ball. I know when guys are sacrificing their bodies. You can see that on film. You can see how guys are working. You can see the extra film study."

And for that reason, Clark is not advocating major changes in the way he or others approach their work over the off week or when the team returns to a typical week next week in advance of the game against the New York Jets.

"It's football," he said. "We're trying to make it science, and it's not. It's really not. We just have to play hard. We have to get some plays to bounce our way. Ike [Taylor] catches the ball. The guy knocks it out of his hand. Good play for Minnesota. We forced a fumble. We had a chance to get it. We don't pick it up. That's what it's about. Right now, we're trying to reinvent the wheel. We just need to keep working and doing what we're doing."

Missed opportunity

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked and fumbled on the final offensive play at the Minnesota 6. According to right tackle Marcus Gilbert, if the offensive line had protected Roethlisberger better, the Steelers would have forced overtime.

"We had a shot on that last play," Gilbert said.

"We just have to do a better job of keeping [Roethlisberger] clean. We would have a touchdown there no doubt. Emmanuel Sanders was wide open for a touchdown. If we don't keep [Roethlisberger] clean, obviously you see what happens. But, if you keep him clean, he throws the ball better than anyone else in the league."

Score dictating to Steelers

The Steelers have not held more than a three-point lead in their first four games. They have not held a lead in the second half this season and trailed big in each of their past two games.

If you're looking for reasons the Steelers are the only NFL team without a turnover, that's a good place to start. But how about some of the signature hits the Steelers have become known for, the types of game-changing hits that can lead to turnovers or a change in the game's momentum?

"What can be attributed to us not getting a lot of big hits is people don't have to put their people in bad situations," Clark said.

"When you're winning the games, you can throw to the outside. You can throw hitches. You can set up plays to where they aren't inside the hashes deep down the field that would give somebody like myself a chance to get them.

'Until we get to the point where teams have to press and do those things, we won't get those big hits and big collisions."


Ray Fittipaldo: and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published October 2, 2013 4:00 AM


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