Mike Tomlin could have acknowledged looking at the Steelers’ 16-7 loss to the Washington Redskins through the prism of August football.
Instead, the fifth-year coach called out his team for lack of execution — and to some degree effort — in a meaningless preseason game. That is not surprising since Tomlin treats an excuse as if it is a glowing ember, something that needs to be stamped out before it catches fire.
His level of dissatisfaction was disproportionate to what transpired in Landover, Md., considering the circumstances.
A handful of offensive starters, including Ben Roethlisberger, played just five snaps. The first-team defense took the field without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, each of whom were held out of the game as a precaution.
What is worrisome following the Steelers’ first preseason game is the situation at cornerback. Even if Ike Taylor’s broken thumb is a minor setback –- and all indications point to that -– the Steelers are in no better position to defend against the spread than they were last February when Aaron Rodgers carved them up for 304 passing yards.
Bryant McFadden and William Gay are serviceable, but so far none of the young cornerbacks have stepped up to challenge them.
Rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen can’t stay on the field. Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler have also had some injury issues. And neither distinguished himself against the Redskins despite ample playing time.
Not that just any team will be able to spread out the Steelers.
There, are to be sure, plenty of bad quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s just that most of them have been weeded out by the start of the playoffs.
If the Steelers are to successfully defend against teams spreading them out to neutralize the pass rush, they are going to need some of their young cornerbacks to emerge.
Or at least one of them anyway.
– Scott Brown